Medvedev promises closer energy ties with Kazakhstan

Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev travelled Thursday to Kazakhstan, the first stop in a three-day foreign policy trip that prioritizes energy ties with Asia over difficult relations with Europe and the United States, reported dpa
The 42-year-old president, who succeed his mentor Vladimir Putin this month, will fly from oil-rich Kazakhstan to energy-hungry Beijing on Friday in a bid to manage Russia's stake in one of the world's largest oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.
On landing in the Kazakh capital Astana, Medvedev told his counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev that the very fact Thursday was his first state visit testified to the strong ties between Moscow and its former Soviet ally.
"This visit is not just a coincidence but a demonstration of cooperation and particularly brotherly relations between Russia and Kazakhstan," Medvedev told the 67-year-old Nazarbayev, who has been 18 years at the helm.
The scheduling is a bold move in Russia's resurgent world politics snubbing its largest trading partner Europe. Eight years back, Putin's first official trip abroad was to Britain, a state that has seen its relations with Moscow deteriorate in recent years.
Medvedev, who is also chairman of energy monopoly Gazporm, was introduced to Nazarbayev and other CIS leaders as Putin's replacement over foreign policy already during his campaign and the two leaders know each other well.
Nazarbayev struck a familiar tone congratulating Medvedev on his hometown St Petersburg Zenit's win in the UEFA cup final.
After talks, Medvedev said: "A good tradition was started, we agreed to communicate regularly. At any time we will be available to one another to discuss both international questions and the day's bilateral agenda of day."
Newspaper Nezavesima Gazeta led Thursday with the headline, "the closest of the old 15," highlighting the feeling in Moscow that topping Medvedev's foreign policy agenda will be reaffirming strategic influence in post-Soviet ring of states.
Energy cooperation was the main topic of discussion between the two largest oil producers in the former Soviet Union who share one of the world's longest land boarder, focusing on new pipeline projects.
"Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to the economic expediency of collaboration in the sphere of hydrocarbon output and transportation to the world markets, as well as the deepening of interaction in the sphere of peaceful atomic energy use," the two leaders said in a joint statement after meetings Thursday.
Russia has sought to retain its monopoly on the transit of oil and gas from Kazakhstan and the oil rich Caspian seabed and won a deal last year securing Turkmen and Kazakh gas supplies to flow through Russia.
But as its economy booms Kazakhstan has moved to balance its standing, which has resulted in an oil pipeline to China and talks about joining the Western-led Nabucco pipeline to ship oil to Europe bypassing Russia territory.
It was expected that no deals would be signed in the energy sphere Thursday, but the two countries inked an agreement on military cooperation and joint space exploration.

Russia currently runs the bulk of its space programme from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakh steppes, which it rents for about 115 million dollars a year.

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