Britain inks billion-dollar deals in ‘strategic’ Kazakhstan

ASTANA: British Prime Minister David Cameron signed a strategic cooperation agreement as well as $1.0 billion in deals with Kazakhstan on Monday during his first visit to the energy-rich ex-Soviet state.
Cameron and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev also unveiled an oil and gas processing plant on the shores of the Caspian Sea that is meant to provide a new reliable source of energy for European countries.

The British premier played up the importance of Kazakhstan to regional security as he wound down a swing through the region that included visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Plans to construct a European- and US-backed natural gas pipeline called Nabucco have already fallen through and Western powers are now seeking to hammer out a new strategy to establish closer contacts with nations such as Kazakhstan.

Britain for one has decided to focus on bilateral relations with specific Central Asian countries. Cameron became the first British prime minister to visit the nation – a landmark event highlighted by Nazarbayev.

Kazakhstan is seen as one of the more neutral Central Asian countries that enjoys equally good relations with Russia and China as well as the West – despite periodic criticism by Washington and Brussels of its human rights record.

Nazarbayev has also hired former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the nation’s image consultant who has been tasked with improving Kazakhstan's attraction to investors.

Cameron led a large business delegation to the Central Asian nation that included top managers from Royal Dutch Shell.

The British premier and Nazarbayev jointly unveiled the Bolashak on-shore oil and gas processing facility that operates with involvement from the Anglo-Dutch giant.

It is due to process 450,000 barrels of oil and 8.8 million cubic metres of gas daily by the time it becomes fully operational.

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