Tehran, March 14, IRNA - President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan will visit Iran soon for talks with Iranian leaders, said Kazakh Ambassador to Iran Yerik Utembayev Tuesday.
The ambassador did not give an exact date for the visit but said the visit will aim to strengthen bilateral political and economic relations.
Talking to IRNA, he said Iran-Kazakhstan Joint Economic Cooperation Commission will meet during Nazarbayev's visit to Tehran.
Iran and Kazakhstan together with Russia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan border the Caspian Sea shores.
Iran is to host the five Caspian countries at a summit in Tehran in the first quarter of 2007. The upcoming summit, which Nazarbayev has agreed to attend, could be a turning point in relations between the states around the landlocked sea.
Pointing to Nazarbayev's annual message to the Kazakh nation on the last day of February under the title of "New Kazakhstan in a New World", the ambassador said Nazarbayev had outlined the strategy of Kazakhstan's development for the next decade.
"WTO entry on terms that are beneficial for Kazakhstan is the goal that we've got to achieve," Nazarbayev said in his message.
"Kazakhstan intends to negotiate with its regional neighbors a more favorable business climate in Central Asia which will allow Kazakh companies to freely invest in neighboring countries and remove bureaucratic and protectionist barriers to imports and exports, as well as to the movement of capital and the workforce," he said.
The main products exchanged between both sides were oil, wheat and building materials, the ambassador said in an interview with IRNA.
Trade and energy relations between Iran and Kazakhstan have improved over the last few years, said Utembayev.
The trade volume between the two countries rose from dlrs 700 million in 2004 to dlrs 900 million in 2005. This figure stood at dlrs 1.2 billion in the first eight months of 2006.
He further said that the port of Amirabad in northern Iran is a vital point in Iran-Kazakhstan economic relations, noting that every year some 1.2 million barrels of oil are exported from Aktau (in Kazakhstan) to Iran via this port. Iran then transports this oil to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf region.
Instead, Kazakhstan sells Iran a good amount of wheat. He noted that a shared wheat silo under construction in Amirabad port will become operational next year.
Kazakhstan is already exporting nearly dlrs one billion worth of wheat to Iran through barter deals.
The envoy said different provinces in his country had established official relations and cooperation with Iran's northern province of Mazandaran.
Meanwhile, the Kazakh envoy said, a wheat silo, which is currently being built jointly by Iran and Kazakhstan in Amirabad port, would become operational in the next Iranian year (to start March 21).
He said joint ventures between the two countries would help promote bilateral trade. "Iran has great potentials for development of bilateral relations particularly in the economic sector."
Kazakh Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Baktykozha Izmukhambetov has called on Iranian companies to invest in petrochemical projects in his country, he added.
Iran and Kazakhstan are taking measures to develop oil and gas cooperation. Last month, Ambassador Utembayev met with Deputy Oil Minister of Iran Reza Kasaeizadeh, who is also managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC). The two sides discussed ways of further cementing the bilateral economic ties.
Moreover, a Kazakh working group comprising directors of Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and National Company KazMunaiGaz JSC has held talks with Iranian energy officials.
The delegation headed by managing director for gas projects of KazMuniaGaz JSC Mussabek Issayev visited industrial and infrastructure projects including gas processing and petrochemical complexes in Assalouyeh special economic zone in the Persian Gulf and Neka Port on the Caspian Sea among others.
The two sides reached agreement on exchange of correspondent technologies and experience, holding of feasibility studies and presentation of a legal framework for regulating work in Assalouyeh special economic zone and activity of foreign companies in Iranian oil and gas fields.
The Iranian side invited Kazakh enterprises to participate in the opening ceremony of Assalouyeh petrochemical complex in May 2007.
Utembayev said Kazakhstan is considering building a refinery in one of the northern provinces of Iran, maybe in Mazandaran. This will make transfer of Kazakh oil to Iran easier, he noted.
Iran, too, is working on establishment of a grand petrochemical facility in western Kazakhstan, he said.
"Access to peaceful nuclear energy is the legitimate right of every country. We all know that oil and gas resources are not everlasting," Utembayev noted.
"Nonproliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the security objectives in the region," he said, adding that for the same reason Kazakhstan had voluntarily dismantled the nuclear weapons it possessed until a few years ago.
Kazakhstan inherited nuclear-tipped missiles, a nuclear weapon test site, and biological and chemical weapon production facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed.
"We destroyed all our nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees from the developed world," Ambassador Utembayev said. He added that Kazakhstan and Russia now do uranium enrichment jointly.
Asked about ways to put an end to the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West, he said the issue must be resolved through negotiations and within the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Both sides must be transparent and continue negotiations within the IAEA," he said, adding that negotiations were apparently working in the case of North Korea too. "Diplomatic contacts are very important here." He said Kazakhstan had proposed to Iran to join the Russian-Kazakh consortium for uranium enrichment and was still waiting for a response from Tehran.
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