Flag of Kazakhstan (Available at Wikimedia Commons)   Nuclear: During his visit to Tehran in June 2006, Kazak Foreign Minister Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev said that Kazakhstan supports the peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and opposes the use of nuclear enrichment for military purposes

July 19, 2010

Kazakhstan-Iran Foreign Relations

Flag of Kazakhstan (Available at Wikimedia Commons)

During his visit to Tehran in June 2006, Kazak Foreign Minister Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev said that Kazakhstan supports the peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and opposes the use of nuclear enrichment for military purposes.[1] During a June 2009 press conference with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev affirmed that "no nuclear material will reach Iran" from Kazakhstan and that “the leak of nuclear materials is a critical issue for us." According to experts, Kazakhstan possesses as much as 15% of the world’s uranium supply.[2]

According to a December 30, 2009 report by the Associated Press and the New York Times, an unnamed member state of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran recently concluded a clandestine deal to import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan. Such an agreement would violate United Nations sanctions imposed on Iran in 2006. The IAEA member report indicated that Tehran was willing to pay $450 million for the shipment. Kazakh Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev denied the report, saying that Kazakhstan complied with all international regulations: ''all Kazakhstan's activities in the uranium sphere have been under the IAEA control.” A spokesman for Kazatomprom, the Kazakh state uranium company, also denied involvement. Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York described the report as ''a fabrication and completely baseless.” [3]

During the June 2010 Conference Disarmament in the Central Asia and the Caspian Sea Region, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev met with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki. According to Iran’s Fars News Agency, the two ministers “underlined the need for nuclear disarmament across the globe, in the region in particular.”[4]


[Click here for more information on the Caspian Sea states.]


Economic Relationship:

Iran and Kazakhstan, two oil-rich countries, both profit from subterranean and underwater oil and gas reserves. In a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noted that bilateral trade exceeds $2 billion annually. The two countries have repeatedly stated the goal of increasing their trade figure to as high as $10 billion. [5] In recent years, Kazakhstan has expanded its refined oil shipments to Iran, which, despite its vast crude reserves, does not have the capacity to refine a sufficient quantity of oil for domestic use. [6]

In April 2007, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan agreed to cooperate in the construction of a north-south rail line, linking the three countries and providing Central Asia with a direct connection to the Persian Gulf. By July 2010, the parties had completed roughly 300 kilometers of the project with the remaining 360 kilometer section expected by the end of 2010. The railway, which has been hailed as “the modern-age silk road,” will eventually have the capacity to transport 10 to 20 million tons of freight annually. [7]

During a March 2009 meeting of the ten-nation Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), an economic bloc in which both Iran and Kazakhstan are members, the ECO stated that it aimed to establish a free trade zone for its members by 2015. [8]  In April 2009, during a meeting between the Iranian and Kazakh presidents, the two agreed to establish a joint oil tanker company and to improve cooperation in fields such as healthcare, media, and tourism.[9] The two leaders also discussed the need to overhaul the world financial system, with President Ahmadinejad stating that "through joint efforts we will manage to neutralize the impact of the financial crisis and strengthen regional economic cooperation."[10]

 In June 2009, business leaders from Iran’s Ardabil province signed a commercial cooperation agreement with the government of Kazakhstan. Later that year, in November 2009, Iranian Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari met with Kazakh officials to coordinate several economic initiatives. During the meeting, the Iranian minister expressed his country’s intention to open a bank and highlighted the existence of several available avenues for economic collaboration between his country and Kazakhstan, including “investing in ports, cooperating in oil and gas projects, holding international fairs, and providing construction material and agricultural machines.” [11]  

In December 2009, Iran encouraged Kazakhstan to remove visa requirements for Iranians interested in doing business in the Central Asian country. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman Parast said that “if lifting visa requirements comes on both countries’ agenda, then visits by traders and businessmen will be facilitated and the ground will be prepared for the expansion of cooperation.”[12] In May 2010, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Iran, Nurbakh Rustemov, announced that his country will work to expedite visa requests for Iranian citizens. According to the envoy, "the embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan makes its best efforts to facilitate visa issuance for Iranian businessmen and tourists."[13]

During a visit to Kazakhstan in April 2010, the head of the of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Mines of Iran's Semnan province, Ali Asqar Jome’i, announced that his country will construct a permanent trade center in southern Kazakhstan. Jome’i characterized Kazakhstan as a free economy, ready to accept foreign investment, particularly in its mining industry and suggested that the country would be a lucrative choice for Iranian investors. [14] Later that month, in a meeting with the governor general of Iran’s North Khorassan province, Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh, Kazakh Consul General in Iran Adel Bayev claimed that "Kazakhstan is ready to invest (in Iran) in all fields." According to the consul general, the western portion of his country would be willing to accept Iranian investment in the fields of construction, cattle breeding, chicken hatchery, fish farming, and leather production. For his part, Jahanbakhsh stressed that the expatriate communities of both countries could serve as a “bridge” to improving bilateral exchanges between Iran and Kazakhstan. Statistics provided by the governor general indicate that some 2,000 Iranians currently reside in Kazakhstan, while 5,000 Kazakh citizens live in Iran. [15]

Also in April 2010, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki received Kazakh Minister for Transport and Communications Abelgazi Kusainov for discussions regarding the implementation of joint projects. During the meeting, Mottaki noted that “relations between Iran and Kazakhstan under the excellent supervision of the two countries' presidents are moving on a strategic path and the ties are expanding in all fields, especially in energy, transportation, industry, trade and agriculture." Kusainov was in Tehran serving as head of the two countries’ Joint Economic Cooperation Commission. [16]

In an attempt to highlight methods for improving bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture, Iranian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Qorban Seifi met with the Kazakh minister of agriculture, Akylbek Kutishbayev, in May 2010. The two officials discussed issues relating to grain, mechanized farming, animal husbandry, and the manufacturing of agricultural machinery. Kutishbayev and Seifi also agreed to pen an agreement regarding the quarantining of cattle and vegetation.[17] That same month, Ambassador Rustemov held talks with the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’ Second Office for Commonwealth and Northeaster Neighbors, Nasser Aqajani. During their conversations, Aqajani praised the advances made in relations, noting that "at the bilateral level, over 60 arenas of cooperation between the two countries have been identified, part of them have been brought into operation while implementation of cooperation in the remaining parts is on the agenda." The foreign ministry official also suggested that the transportation and energy sectors contain many opportunities for expanding cooperation and offered his hope that planned direct flights between Astana and Tehran would serve to improve Iran-Kazakhstan ties.[18] This latter point was realized when, in June 2010, the two countries began thrice-weekly direct flights to each other’s capital. According to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, "[the] launching [of] the flight [will] make it possible to add new content to relations between the two countries, in particular, this will provide Kazakhstan and Iran with an opportunity to step up their ties in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian fields and also help to boost brotherly relations between the Kazakh and Iranian nations."[19]

Following a July 2010 meeting between Ambassador Seifi and Sauat Mynbayev, Kazakhstan’s oil and gas minister, the two countries agreed to create an oil workgroup with the goal of developing bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbons sector.[20]


[Click here for more information on Kazakhstan’s business activity in Iran.]


Diplomatic/Military Relationship:

Much Kazakh and Iranian diplomatic interaction has revolved around division of the Caspian Sea. Both have a share of the seabed’s resources and both profit from the vast oil reserves there. In a joint declaration made in 2007, the five Caspian states, including Iran and Kazakhstan, agreed that they "under no circumstances will allow the use of their territories by other states for an aggression or other military actions against any of the parties."[21] After rumors that Iran was being excluded from discussions over legal issues involving the Caspian Sea surfaced in August 2009, Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin phoned Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, strongly denying that any such meetings had taken place either formally or informally. Tazhin added that dialogue over the Caspian Sea is “not possible” without Iran.[22] While bilateral political and military ties between the two are not notably extensive, Iran and Kazakhstan participate in a multitude of international and regional organizations, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (a China-Russia dominated regional economic and security group, in which Kazakhstan is a member and Iran an observer), the Economic Cooperation Organization (an Iran-Turkey-Pakistan founded Central Asian trade bloc), and the Conference on the Caspian Sea.

During an April 2009 meeting between the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Ahmadinejad noted that "although Iran's ties with Kazakhstan are not longstanding, they are rooted in culture and national interests" and indicated that bilateral ties have grown positively since Kazakhstan’s independence.[23]   In April 2009, President Ahmadinejad received an honorary doctorate from the Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan. Ahmadinejad described the honor as "a symbol of friendship and brotherhood between the two countries - Iran and Kazakhstan."[24] In June 2009, shortly before Iran’s presidential elections, Kazakhstan established a military attaché office in the country’s embassy in Tehran.[25]

 In February 2010, Iranian and Kazakh officials signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to increase their cooperation in art and culture. The two sides also discussed increasing their academic cooperation in training and research fields, preservation and development of arts, holding training workshops between their art academies, and conducting joint research projects.[26]

While receiving credentials of Iran’s new ambassador to Kazakhstan, Qorban Seifi, President Nazarbayev lauded the state of Iran-Kazakhstan ties and claimed that his country attaches a “special importance” to the expansion of relations with the Islamic Republic. During the May 2010 ceremony, Nazarbayev further added that Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2009 “opened a new chapter in bilateral cooperation” and explained that, as the two countries share “identical views” on a host of international issues, expansion of cooperation between Iran and Kazakhstan is essential. [27]    

On the sidelines of the June 2010 Istanbul session of the Organization of Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, President Ahmadinejad stressed the regional importance of partnership with Astana, saying that "using all the existing potentials in Iran and Kazakhstan for [the] further promotion of bilateral and regional relations is in the interests of the two nations and the nations of the region." President Nazarbayev echoed his Iranian counterpart’s comments, adding that "Iran and Kazakhstan have ample potentials for increasing the level of their bilateral relations and mutual cooperation" while noting that Iran is a major player in regional geopolitics.[28]

 In June 2010, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Iran, Nurbakh Rustemov, met with the head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. The two discussed opportunities for expanding parliamentary relations between Kazakhstan and Iran, with Rustemov adding that the ample opportunities for improvement  in bilateral relations dictate that the two countries work to improve collaboration on political, economic, and cultural issues. [29] Boroujerdi’s calls were repeated by Kazakhstan’s Senate speaker, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev who later that same month demonstrated support for the Iran-Kazakhstan Parliamentary Friendship Group. The speaker added that “there is great potential for cooperation between Astana and Tehran” and further stressed the importance of increasing cooperation via regional organizations.[30]



[1]         Yermukanov, Marat, “Kazakhstan Seeks Iran’s Reconciliation With The West,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol 3, Issue 117, June 16, 2006, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/? tx_ttnews[tt_news]=31790&tx_ttnews[backPid]=177&no_cache=1 (February 24, 2009)
[2] Rettig Gur, Haviv, “’We Won’t Give Iran Any Nuke Material’,” Jerusalem Post, June 30, 2009 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite? cid=1246296535221&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull (July 2, 2009)
[3] Jahn, George, “Intel Report: Iran Seeking to Smuggle Raw Uranium,” Associated Press/Seattle Times, December 29, 2009 http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010623991_apirannuclear.htm l (July 19, 2010)
[4] “Iran, Kazakhstan Discuss Development of Economic Ties,” Fars News Agency, June 24, 2010 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8904030649 (July 19, 2010)
[5] Caspian Nations Hold Exclusive Rights To Caspian Resources,” Central Asia And Caucasus Business Weekly, October 23, 2007
[6] “Caspian Nations Hold Exclusive Rights To Caspian Resources,” Central Asia And Caucasus Business Weekly, October 23, 2007
[7] “  Iran-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan Railway Ready in 2011,” Fars News Agency, July 5, 2010 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8904141436 (July 19, 2010)
[8] “ECO Agrees to Establish Free Trade Zone by 2015,” Mehr News Agency, March 11, 2009
[9] “Iran, Kazakhstan Issue Joint Statement,” IRNA, April 7, 2009
[10] “Iran Supports Nazarbayev’s Proposal on New Financial System, Interfax, April 6, 2009
[11] “Iran to Open Expo Center in Kazakhstan,” Tehran Times,  November 30, 2009 http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=208997; “Iranian, Kazakh Businessmen Sign Agreement on Commercial Cooperation,” Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ardabil Provincial TV, June 3, 2009
[12]  “Kazakhstan Urged to Lift Visa Requirement for Iranian Traders,” Fars, December 8, 2009, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8809171588 (December 12, 2009)
[13] “Kazakhstan to Facilitate Visas for Iranian Businessmen,” Fars News Agency, May 30, 2010
[14] “Iran To Open Permanent Trade Center In Kazakhstan,” Fars News Agency, April 12, 2010
[15] “Kazakh Official Highlights Good Ties Between Tehran, Astana,” Fars News Agency, April 20, 2010
[16] Mottaki Terms Iran-Kazakhstan Ties Strategic,” Fars News Agency, April 21, 2010; Mottaki: “Iran-Kazakhstan Ties Expanding In All Fields,” IRNA¸ April 20, 2010
[17] “Iran, Kazakhstan Discuss Agricultural Cooperation,” Fars News Agency, May 29, 2010
[18] “Iran Decisive to Boost Ties with Kazakhstan,” Fars News Agency, May 30, 2010
[19] “Kazakhstan, Iran Sign Accord to Open Direct Flights,” Interfax- Kazakhstan, June 1, 2010
[20] “Iran and Kazakhstan to Establish Oil Workgroup,” Steel Guru, July 19, 2010 http://www.steelguru.com/middle_east_news/Iran_a nd_Kazakhstan_to_establish_oil_workgroup/155761.html (July 19, 2010)
[21] “Caspian Nations Hold Exclusive Rights To Caspian Resources,” Central Asia And Caucasus Business Weekly, October 23, 2007
[22] “Kazakh FM: No Talks On Caspian Sea Possible Without Iran,” IRNA, August 26, 2009
[23] “Ahmadinejad Sees Brighter Future for Iran-Kazakh Ties,” IRNA, April 6, 2009
[24] “Iranian Leader Awarded Kazakh University Honorary Title, Interfax-Kazakhstan Online, April 7, 2009
[25] “Kazakh Embassy in Iran Opens Military Attache Office,” Interfax-Kazakhstan, June 4, 2009
[26] “Iranian, Kazakh Art Academies Ink MoU,” Fars News Agency, February 22, 2010 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8812031682
[27] “Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev Stresses Importance of Ties with Tehran,” IRNA, May 1, 2010
[28] “Iran, Kazakhstan Stress Active Presence In Regional, Int'l Developments,” Fars News Agency¸ June 8, 2010
[29] “Kazakh Diplomat Hails Iran's Rich Civilization,” IRNA¸ June 13, 2010
[30] “Iran-Kazakhstan Parliamentary Cooperation Necessary:Tokayev,” Tehran Times¸ June 27, 2010 http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=221999 (July 19, 2010)
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