Crossroads Asia

Nazarbayev Starts Off Week of Travel in Iran

He’ll head on to Istanbul and Uzbekistan later in the week.

Nazarbayev Starts Off Week of Travel in Iran
Credit: yakub88 /

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is starting off a week of travel with an important visit to Iran. He was welcomed in style, with full military honors in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Monday.

The end of Iran’s international diplomatic isolation, a function of the lifting of sanctions following the successful completion and implementation of a nuclear deal signed last year between Tehran and the P5+1, was received with great enthusiasm in Central Asia. Kazakhstan in particular–which has made nonproliferation one of its calling cards–was pleased by the settling of a deal between Iran and the West. Not only was it a triumph for the country’s heartfelt nonproliferation position, but a potential economic boom.

Bilateral trade stood at $635 million in 2015, a number which both Kazakhstan and Iran hope to boost to $3-4 billion. If such an endeavor were successful, it would bring Iran into the second tier of Kazakhstan’s trade partners–far behind the EU, Russia and China, but sitting comfortably alongside Ukraine and Turkey.

Iranian press quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying,“This trip will be a turning point in developing ties and increasing consultation between the two countries.”

Kazakh and Iranian officials signed 9 memorandums of understanding including on prisoner extraditions, cooperation on railways and transport as well as between central banks, and an MOU on cooperation between Iran’s National Development Fund and Kazakhstan’s Baiterek Holding Company. Baiterek was founded in 2013 by the Kazakh government to help attract investment in development programs.

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Nazarbayev’s visit came on the heels of a meeting of the Kazakh-Iranian Business Council, which attracted some 200 Kazakh and Iranian businesses. Several dozen agreements were signed between various businesses. Vestnik Kavkaza reported that 50 cooperation agreements had been reached totalling more than $1 billion.

Among the most notable business deals struck were a $600 million contract between SUNIR, an Iranian power and water equipment company, and the Kazakh Eurasia Invest Group, to build a wind power plant and two thermal power plants; and a $200 million agreement between Iran’s Kaveh Glass Industry Group and the Investment Fund of Kazakhstan for a soda ash production plant. Soda ash, made from salt and limestone, has several uses including glass and water treatment.

Nazarbayev will travel to Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday for a two-day visit. While there he is to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s 13th summit.

On Friday, Nazarbayev will stop in Uzbekistan for a meeting with President Islam Karimov. That meeting is already presaged by good news between the two countries. According to Trend, the press service of Kazakhstan’s national railways announced that it had reached an agreement with Uzbekistan on a flexible tariff policy on rail freight.