Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan focus on energy, transport, space

( RIA Novosti ) - Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan have met in Astana, on the first leg of Vladimir Putin's Central Asian tour, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Thursday.

Opening the one-on-one negotiations in Kazakhstan's capital, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said high-level contacts between the two countries had become a tradition and added that he and Putin would consider an action plan for finding new cooperation opportunities.

"It concerns nuclear power, energy, regional and humanitarian cooperation," Nazarbayev said.

Putin called for developing high technologies in the energy sector and entering third country markets.

Energy is the key sector for cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan, which jointly develop uranium and hydrocarbon deposits in Kazakhstan and export Kazakh oil via Russian territory.

Kazakhstan's president told his Russian counterpart that his energy-rich country intended to transport nearly all oil to global markets via Russian territory.

"Oil and gas cooperation [with Russia] is strategically important, specifically in transporting Kazakh oil to global markets, using Russian trunk pipelines and joint refineries," Nursultan Nazarbayev said. " Kazakhstan is committed to transporting most of its oil, if not, all of it, across Russian territory."

Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan transported 42 out of 52.3 million metric tons (384.4 million bbl) of oil via Russia last year.

United Company Russian Aluminum is working on an ambitious infrastructure project involving Kazakhstan-based assets, the Russian president said.

"The world's leading [aluminum producer] Russian Aluminum is working on a massive infrastructure project involving assets on Kazakh territory," Vladimir Putin said.

"We expect you... to support us in implementing these projects," Putin said addressing the Kazakh delegation. He also said aluminum cooperation had bright prospects as the world's leading industry.

The two presidents adopted a joint statement approving a plan of cooperation in 2007-08, including space, military-technical cooperation, nuclear energy, cross-border trade, and large scale integration projects.

Putin said an intergovernmental agreement on the creation of international uranium enrichment center, which will be signed later today, is the first step toward creating a global nuclear power infrastructure.

"I am convinced that this is a very promising area of cooperation, which will benefit both the Kazakh and Russian economy," Putin said.

In the space sphere, the two countries are also working to build a space complex at Baikonur, Baiterek, to launch Angara launch vehicles capable of putting 26 metric tons of payload into low-Earth orbits. The project is being implemented on a parity basis and enjoys tax, customs and other privileges. But Russia has reportedly delayed tests of the Angara until 2011 from the earlier date of 2008.

Russia rents its main space center, Baikonur, built in Kazakhstan in the 1950s, under an agreement signed in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Speaking at a news conference following talks with Putin, President Nazarbayev highlighted issues that concern residents of the nearby town of Baikonur, which is under Russian civilian administration and economic regulations, including medical services, education and religious practices.

"These have been included in an action plan in 2007-2008. And we will tackle these issues through compromise by signing a relevant protocol," Nazarbayev said.

After Astana, Putin will travel to Turkmenistan and then return to Kazakhstan to visit the town of Aktau May 12-15.

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