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Kazakhstan: President Signs Economic Partnership Agreement With U.S.

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 19 November (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev summed up his two-day working visit to Washington when he told an investment conference his aim was to develop closer ties with the United States, build a strong market economy and play a role in international affairs.

After meeting for 30 minutes in the Oval Office of the White House with U.S. President Bill Clinton Tuesday evening, the two presidents issued a joint statement outlining the progress they had made on all those goals.

Clinton and Nazarbayev said they want to deepen what are already "close and productive" relations between the two countries. As part of that, Nazarbayev -- in his capacity as co-chairman of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Cooperation Commission with U.S. Vice President Al Gore -- signed what is called an "Action Program on Economic Partnership," a plan to encourage far greater American investment in Kazakhstan, especially in developing its energy resources.

Development of Kazakhstan's share of the Caspian Sea oil resources was a center-piece of Nazarbayev's Washington visit. He and his ministers signed two major oil production agreements -- one a 40-year accord with a consortium led by the U.S. oil company Texaco valued at up to $8 billion to develop oil and gas fields in northwestern Kazakhstan. The second is a similar partnership deal with Mobil Oil and other international firms.

In their joint statement, the two presidents agreed on the need to adopt a Caspian Sea legal regime to establish clear property rights for the five nations which border the sea. And the statement adopted the U.S. view that multiple pipeline routes to export Caspian sea oil to world markets would "advance economic development in Kazakhstan and promote regional stability and security."

The statement also said the presidents agreed on the need to strengthen regional cooperation, including the establishment of an east-west Eurasian transport corridor and stronger efforts to resolve the environmental crisis in the Aral Sea basin.

Dealing with another energy area -- nuclear -- the U.S. and Kazakhstan signed several agreements on peaceful nuclear cooperation. One covers disposal of waste from Kazakhstan's only nuclear power station at Aktau, designed to reduce proliferation risks near the country's border with Iran by planning to shut the aging power plant down by the year 2003.

First Deputy Prime Minister Akhmetzhan Yeimov and U.S. Energy Secretary Frederico Pena signed the agreement Tuesday after Clinton on Monday signed a special "determination" that cooperation with Kazakhstan on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes would "not constitute an unreasonable risk" to U.S. security and defense.

The joint presidential statement also noted the two countries had signed an agreement on defense cooperation in counter-proliferation and welcomed Nazarbayev's "firm commitment to prevent the transfer of technology and materials association with weapons of mass destruction and sophisticated military technologies "to countries that pose a threat to regional and global security."

As part of that, the two countries have agreed to set up a regular meeting of experts to discuss non-proliferation issues.

Under another defense cooperation pact, the two countries set out plans for enhanced regional security and bilateral military-to-military cooperation to promote regional stability and help develop Kazakhstan's military forces.

Among the 14 agreements Nazarbayev or his ministers signed while in Washington, others covered trade and economic development and the promotion of a democratic society in Kazakhstan.

In their joint statement, Clinton pledged U.S. support for Kazakhstan's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and agreed to promote investment.

Gore says U.S. companies have already invested over $1.4 billion in Kazakhstan, accounting for 40 percent of the country's foreign direct investment. He also says that U.S. oil and gas companies have pledged to invest as much as $20 billion over time for their involvement in developing Kazakhstan's oil and gas industry.

The joint presidential statement included their review of Kazakhstan's progress towards creating a society based on "democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights."

It said that Clinton expressed "strong support" for holding free and fair parliamentary elections in 1999 and presidential elections in 2000 in Kazakhstan. The statement said these would "serve as a demonstration of Kazakhstan's commitment to democratic principles."