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Kazakh Visit Tip of an Energy Iceberg

  • December 9th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

kazakhstan-resize.jpgEurope’s interest in Central Asia –especially for its oil, and other security concerns – was highlighted when the Kazakhstan President, Noursoultan Nazarbaev visited Brussels on 4.12.06.

Mr Nazarbaev met the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the alliance’s headquarters; a reminder to the world that former Soviet republics are most welcome there today, (Picture: NATO).

The strategically-located country, sharing borders with China and Russia, also has extensive oil, gas and uranium deposits.

When Mr Nazarbaev went to the European Commission, there was talk about assisting Kazakhstan to build a pipeline under the Caspian sea, to help it export oil and gas to the West.

European leaders have become anxious about energy supplies since last Winter, when Russia cut supplies going through Ukraine, in a price dispute with that country.

They have been formulating a plan for building an integrated network of investment, development, pipelines and other installations, in conjunction with several countries around Europe’s borders.

That is to be consolidated with major declarations on energy for Europe, set for 10.1.07, ahead of a summit of EU leaders in March, where energy, to date, is expected to be the lead topic for decision-making.

Mr Nazarbaev therefore was welcomed warmly and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, as a basis for stepping up co-operation on energy supply – together with a companion document on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

A statement from the European Commission said Kazakhstan was an important energy player:

“Kazakhstan oil reserves are estimated at 9 billion barrels and natural gas reserves estimated at 2 trillion cubic meters.

“Kazakhstan holds approximately 20% of the world’s known reserves of uranium, which makes it the third largest producer of uranium in the world,” it said.

There are some imponderables, especially the access to those supplies that may have been already been obtained by competitors like the Russian petroleum giant Gazprom.

German authorities are known to be working on a comprehensive plan for European dealings with all of Central Asia, to be implemented during the German Presidency of the European Union, starting on 1.1.07.

In the meantime bilateral understandings have been reached on energy with two other countries, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and another is being negotiated with Algeria.

Background: See EUAustralia 20.11.06, Europe’s Energy Domain Extends Beyond Its Borders; see also 13.10.06 EU to Tackle Putin on Gas Fears, and reports on President Putin’s meeting with the EU summit at Lahti in Finland, reported here 21.10.06