(MENAFN - Arab News) Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal held wide-ranging talks with Kazakh counterpart Yerzhan Kazykhanov in Riyadh yesterday that focused on a range of bilateral and regional issues.
On the sidelines of the talks, the two countries also signed a bilateral protocol agreement to facilitate the Kingdom's access of goods and services to Kazakh markets within the framework of the provisions of the Word Trade Organization (WTO).
Osama Nugali, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: "The talks between Prince Saud and his Kazakh counterpart covered a number of topics including new developments in the region." The visit of Kazykhanov to Riyadh is significant keeping in view Astana's announcement in which it expressed its willingness to host the fresh rounds of talks between Iran and the P5 plus 1-the US, the UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany.
Kazakhstan expressed its desire to host the talks after Iran indicated its willingness to choose another country instead of Turkey as the venue for the multifaceted talks. Neither Nugali nor Rauan Jumabek, a spokesman of the Kazakhstan Embassy, could provide further details. The Kazakh foreign minister, who arrived here Friday, is accompanied by a 10-member delegation including Zhanar Aitzhanova, Kazakh minister of economic development and trade.
The agreement to provide the Kingdom access to Kazakh markets was signed by Aitzhanova. On behalf of Saudi Arabia, the bilateral accord was inked by Minister of Commerce and Industry Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. "The visit of Kazakh ministers to the Kingdom will boost bilateral ties in all sectors including trade and economy," said Al-Rabiah, briefly speaking after signing the agreement. On a trade front, the two countries have forged closer ties with two-way trade exceeding SR403 million annually.
Asked about the specifics of the talks with Prince Saud, another diplomat said the discussions covered a number of topics of mutual concerns.
"Saudi Arabia is an important country for Kazakhstan, a new nation which is a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and above all the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is also an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Partnership for Peace program", he added.
Overall, Kazakhstan, whose image and bilateral relations are growing rapidly on a trans-regional level, will further capture the attention of GCC states in the coming months and years, further integrating the Gulf littoral with Central Asian security concerns, he explained, while referring to the leading role of the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, he said, has emerged as an important partner of Kazakhstan from different perspectives, including foreign policy, security or commercial. Riyadh signed an agreement with the Kazakh National Space Agency on cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The agreement was signed late last year and includes a joint program that includes projects in the field of space activities, joint research project, and exchange of information and data, besides organizing conferences, seminars and exhibitions.
Kazakhstan places special importance on developing its relations with Saudi Arabia, he added. Several areas including energy, retail trade and infrastructural development have been identified by two sides that could boost ties further. A number of Saudi businesses have evinced keen interest to invest in Kazakhstan. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is also interested in importing grain and other agriculture products from Kazakhstan.
The central Asian republic, which declared its independence in 1991, is the ninth largest country in the world by land area. Kazakhstan also holds about 4 billion tons of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000 cubic kilometers of gas. According to industry analysts, expansion of oil production and the development of new fields will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels per day by 2015, making the country among the top 10 oil-producing nations in the world.