In November, Human Rights Watch called on OSCE members to put more pressure on Kazakhstan to do more to protect the freedom of the press and improve human rights there.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Robert Amsterdam, an international human rights lawyer, said: "Kazakhstan violates the very prescriptions the OSCE believes it needs to deliver to the region.

"Kazakhstan is a one-man state, with a one-party legislature dominated by [Nursultan] Nazarbayev [Kazakhstan's president].

"The president himself has faced massive investigations for fraud, corruption and kickbacks.

They [Kazakhstan] have never had a democratic election, or anything that would appear like it.

"One can go on and on about the reasons why this country virtually defies every defining aspect of the OSCE."   

Rights concerns

In a statement issued on Friday in Astana, the capital, Kanat Saudabayev, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, pledged "to uphold the fundamental principles and values of the organisation".

He said his country would "proceed according to the interests of all participating states and to strengthen the role of the OSCE as a significant platform for dialogue contributing to security in the wider Eurasian space".

Saudabayev will outline his country's priorities in a speech on January 14 to the OSCE's permanent council in Vienna and plans to host a summit of the organisation during the year.

Last month, Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said: "We have concerns about the situation of human rights, media and other areas ... throughout the region, including Kazakhstan."

While conceding that "no state is without problems," Lenarcic said at a meeting of ministers in Athens on December 2, "clearly there is a challenge for the incoming chairmanship whether they will be able to lead by example".

Journalist's death

December also the month a Kyrgyz opposition journalist was murdered in the Kazakh financial capital of Almaty.

Gennady Pavlyuk was apparently thrown from the sixth-floor window of an apartment with his hands and feet bound with duct tape.

On Wednesday, Kazakhstan angrily denied that it planned to sell purified uranium ore to Iran, calling media reports to this effect  "groundless insinuations".

The reports prompted a warning from the United States that such a transfer was prohibited under UN sanctions on Iran.