POLITICS
01/07/2013 03:44 BST | Updated 01/07/2013 13:30 BST

David Cameron In Kazakhstan: Human Rights Charities Express Concerns Over Torture In 'Mineral-Rich' Nation

David Cameron has been forced to reject assertions he was putting economic ties with the mineral-rich nation ahead of concerns over human rights abuses in Kazakhstan.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch have claimed there is a "serious and deteriorating" situation in Kazakhstan "including credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tight controls over the media and freedom of expression and association, limits on religious freedom, and continuing violations of workers' rights".

Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: "Kazakhstan might be knee-deep in oil and gas wealth, but David Cameron shouldn't let lucrative energy deals prevent him from raising human rights during his trip."

cameron kazakhstan

David Cameron greeted by Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev (third left) after landing at Atyrau airport in Kazakhstan

The PM and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev will hold talks on Monday as the Prime Minister's controversial trade mission to the country continues.

The official visit, the first by a serving British premier, is aimed at building strong business links and deals worth £700 million to UK firms are set to be signed.

The Prime Minister insisted that "Britain always stands up for human rights wherever we are in the world" and said the allegations would be raised in the talks.

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He said: "We will raise all the issues including human rights. That's part of our dialogue and I'll be signing a strategic partnership with Kazakhstan.

"We need for Britain to get out there and win. We need our businesses to win. We need that growth and investment. Countries like Kazakhstan are rapidly growing and one day will be among the top 10 producers."

The Prime Minister is leading a 30 strong business delegation to the country as he seeks to open a new chapter in the relationship with Kazakhstan.

Downing Street has acknowledged Cameron is playing "catch-up" because other Western leaders have already visited the country, which is experiencing rapid growth due to its vast oil and mineral reserves.

The Government believes British firms could secure contracts in Kazakhstan worth up to £85 billion over the coming years.

Cameron and Nazarbayev began talks last night during a two hour flight on the presidential jet after they jointly opened the giant Bolashak oil processing plant, in which Shell has a major stake.

Business deals to be signed on the trip include a £22 million memorandum of understanding between Dando Drilling International, based in Littlehampton, West Sussex, and the Kazakhstan government.

The deal, covering a joint venture to produce drilling equipment, will safeguard 50 jobs int he UK and create an additional 20.

Newcastle-based Kilfrost, experts in de-icing projects, will sign a deal potentially worth £50 million over five years with the Mayor of the City of Astana.

Wood Group, based in Aberdeen, will enter into a joint venture worth almost £3.2 million for the repair and maintenance of equipment.