Caspian States Reach Agreement on Key Issues at Russian Summit
Kazakhstan, Russian Presidents Launch Hydrocarbon Initiative
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 11th Interregional Cooperation Forum between Kazakhstan and Russia, which focused on innovation in the oil and gas industries. The event was attended by approximately 60 companies from Kazakhstan and Russia.
Speaking at the plenary session, President Nazarbayev stressed the importance of the oil and gas industry for the economy of Kazakhstan, which is ranked 12th in the world in oil reserves and is among the top 20 countries in terms of gas reserves. In this regard, Nazarbayev noted the importance of having modern trends shape the hydrocarbon sector.
“Since last year, the balance of oil consumption has shifted to emerging economies. For the first time in history, oil consumption in developing countries has exceeded consumption in OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries. The main trend of the last few years in the petroleum sector also has been the development of shale deposits. Modern technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing allow for production of both gas and oil,” said the President of Kazakhstan.
One of the most important topics discussed at the forum was the newly developed Eurasia project, which was launched in a symbolic ceremony by the heads of the two countries. The project will explore innovative approaches to hydrocarbon exploration. “The main objective of this project is the study of the deep geological structure and geochemistry of the earth’s crust in the Caspian region, obtaining a space-time model and resource estimate. The huge oil and gas potential of the Caspian Basin in Kazakhstan and Russia are of great interest among the major international oil companies,” Nazarbayev said.
Energy is paramount in today’s global agenda, and the Caspian region is strategic in matters of oil and gas production for both Kazakhstan and Russia. Nazarbayev stressed that “now, more than ever, it is important to work together to protect ourselves from geopolitical threats, in particular, in the field of transporting gas.”
Other bilateral agreements signed at the forum included descriptions and extraction terms for the economic activities in the border area of the Vesenne-Aralchinsk copper-pyrite ore deposit and the use of radio spectrum in the Baikonur complex. Regional cooperation agreements on trade and economic, scientific and technical and cultural cooperation were also signed between the akim (governor) of Atyrau region and the government of Bashkortostan and the government of Tatarstan.
Forum participants also confirmed that Kazakhstan will build a nuclear power plant. The joint project will be implemented in the east of the country in Kurchatov. The joint project will be implemented in the east of the country in Kurchatov.
President Putin remarked, “Over the past 11 years, the economic ties between the two countries have reached a qualitatively new level. Bilateral trade increased more than six times. The volume of direct Russian investment in Kazakhstan increased by 10 times. These high dynamics are greatly facilitated by the interaction of investment in our economies.”
“Direct partnerships with all 14 regions of Kazakhstan have been established by the majority of Russian territorial entities,” he continued. “This has created more than 11,000 joint ventures. About 300 interregional agreements on cooperation have been signed. Russia and Kazakhstan have the longest land border in the world. Forty percent of bilateral trade is created by the regions along this border.”
Presentations were made by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Governor of Orenburg Yuriy Berg, President of Bashkortostan Rustem Hamitov, Minister of Energy of Kazakhstan Vladimir Shkolnik, Akim of Atyrau Baktykozha Izmukhambetov and Akim of Aktobe Arhimed Muhambetov.
The next Interregional Cooperation Forum will be held in 2015 in Ufa, Russia.
Regional Cooperation Key to Helping Afghanistan, Says Ambassador
Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Omirtai Bitimov, recently discussed with The Astana Times the situation in Afghanistan, Afghanistan-Kazakhstan cooperation and Afghanistan’s interactions with Central Asia and beyond.
“Afghanistan is going through a difficult transition period. Before the end of this year, the withdrawal of the main part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should be completed. The transmission of full responsibility for security from ISAF to Afghan authorities is continuing,” said Bitimov, 63, who served in Afghanistan during Soviet times and later directed Kazakhstan’s intelligence service.
Bitimov also pointed to a number of recent challenges facing the country, including problems with its presidential election, the complexity of the Sept. 21 agreement to create a government of national unity and the Afghan Independent Election Commission declaration of Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as president and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as chief executive.
The Taliban movement, the Haqqani network, a faction of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan organised by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (IPA-G) and Al-Qaeda also remain active in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s economy remains dependent on foreign donors.
In terms of Kazakhstan-Afghanistan relations, the ambassador said bilateral ties go deeper than simply the humanitarian aid Kazakhstan provides, which includes the ongoing construction of a road, school and hospital. Kazakhstan also plans to provide $1.5 million for project development. Bitimov also noted a state programme to train 1,000 Afghan students in higher education institutions in Kazakhstan and that Afghan universities have expressed a desire to build partnerships with institutions such as the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and the Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University. A large number of higher and secondary educational institutions have been established in Afghanistan.
Business relationships have also been established between the countries thanks to the Kazakhstan-Afghanistan Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) on Trade and Economic Cooperation, Bitimov told The Astana Times.
Afghanistan’s extensive transit access to South Asian states make it a potentially important economic partner, one Kazakhstan would like to see return to stability, he said. Astana’s support of the Istanbul Process is a practical step in cooperation development. A ministerial conference under the Istanbul Process was held in Almaty last year involving the Heart of Asia countries.
“We have evaluated the possibilities of Afghanistan as an important trade and economic partner. Its market holds great practical interest for us,” he said.
Bitimov also noted some positive developments, including the country’s first peaceful transfer of power, which has often in the past been achieved through force.
“Afghanistan and the international community are expecting positive changes with the election of a new president. It is predicted that this could radically change the situation in the country in terms of achieving social stability and economic recovery. In pre-election programmes, both Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah expressed a commitment to the continuation of democratic reforms, further development of the national economy, taking into account the country’s rich natural resources, preparation of qualified personnel and opportunities for regional and international cooperation,” he said.
Bitimov added that the new president will need to employ a delicate interethnic policy in order to meet the needs of all ethnic groups and that Kazakhstan’s experience in doing so can aid the new Afghan president.
Militarily, Bitimov said the Afghan people see the ongoing presence of U.S. troops as the guarantor of preserving internal stability in the country and the avoidance of another civil war, as well as subsequent progress in the social and economic development of the state, adding that many Afghans work on foreign military bases.
Bitimov also said it would be impossible to solve the region’s drug trafficking problem without cooperation among neighbouring countries. He believes it would be appropriate for the law enforcement agencies and the special services of the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan to cooperate on that issue and that the confidence-building measures group within the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan is also a useful tool in promoting cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.
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