ASTANA, April 13 (The Conway Bulletin) – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will visit Tehran later this year, signalling Kazakhstan’s eagerness to embrace Iran after the United States agreed to relax sanctions imposed on it.
Elan Idrissov, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, made the announcement at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Astana.
“We expect the visit of President Nazarbayev to Iran and we hope that this visit will contribute to the development of our relations,” he said.
Mr Zarif was visiting Kazakhstan less than two weeks after agreeing a deal with the US in Lausanne, Switzerland, that could scrap sanctions on Iran in return for extra American oversight of the Iranian nuclear programme. The US has said Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has insisted its nuclear programme is for civilian use only.
Mr Nazarbayev has visited Iran previously. He was one of the few international leaders to attend the inauguration of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in 2013.
For Kazakhstan, Iran is an important consumer market, particularly for grain and steel products. Kazakhstan exports its products to Iran by ship across the Caspian Sea.
At the press conference in Astana, Mr Idrissov also said Kazakhstan supported Iran’s potential membership of the Russia and China-ed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an economic-security organisation focused on Central Asia.
Iran is already an observer member of the SCO. Russia has also said that it supports SCO membership for Tehran, a proposition that will alarm NATO and the US.
This story was first published in issue 227 of The Conway Bulletin. The Conway Bulletin is an independent 8-page newspaper covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus. For more information go to — www.conway.starbit.co.uk