(MENAFN - Arab News) Kazakhstan seeks to expand its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia in the political, cultural and economic spheres, its ambassador said here Sunday.
Bakyt Batyrshayev was speaking at the country's 22nd National Day celebrations held at its embassy. Several Saudi officials and diplomats attended the function.
Batyrshayev said the two countries already have strong ties and praised Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his "constructive" policies. "We are proud of our strong, enduring partnership and pledge to continue strengthening it for the benefit of both our peoples."
Batyrshayev, who previously worked at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), said Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, would host the international energy exhibition EXPO-2017.
He said the visit by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country's president, in March 2004, strengthened relations between the two countries. He said the Saudi-Kazakhstan Business Forum was held in Astana in May 2009 with about 100 Saudi businessmen and officials from various fields.
In 1997, after the capital was moved from Almaty to Astana, Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to support this initiative with substantial grants and soft loans amounting to 44 million for various projects in the city.
This included a 15 million grant for the construction of a new parliamentary building and 17 million for two cardiology hospitals and a military school in Astana and Almaty. The Saudi Development Fund has also extended a 12 million soft loan for the development of road infrastructure.
A Saudi-based company, Central Asia Investment, worth 50 million, is involved in various social and industrial projects in Kazakhstan. "The geographical location of Kazakhstan between Europe and Asia has allowed her to become a platform for multilateral diplomacy by hosting international and regional conferences," he said.