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Kazakh President Visits Iran Against Backdrop Of Nuclear Challenges

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service June 19, 2022

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has met with hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran amid diplomatic overtures from Nur-Sultan to ease bilateral tensions and encourage an end to global nuclear stockpiles within decades.

After his arrival, Toqaev reportedly pledged to declare a 14-day visa-free regime for Iranians in Kazakhstan, the biggest and richest of the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics.

His visit and the accompanying effort to boost relations come amid stalled international efforts to rekindle Iran's seven-year-old sanctions relief for nuclear concessions deal with world powers.

The Iran stopover is Toqaev's first there as Kazakhstan's president and includes a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds most of the religious and political power in Iran.

Raisi was quoted by the Kazakh president's office as saying the deals signed could "open up new opportunities" toward a goal of reaching $3 billion in mutual trade.

"We have all the necessary potential for this, in particular, in the agriculture, transport-transit, and oil sectors," Raisi reportedly said. "I am convinced that the results of today's talks will become a solid foundation for close cooperation between our countries."

Russian media quoted the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) as saying the two sides signed nine cooperation agreements on areas from politics to transport, energy, investment, technology, and tourism.

Kazakhstan is a major oil and uranium producer and a member along with Iran of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes Russia, India, and Pakistan.

Toqaev's Tehran visit also follows a trip to Russia earlier this week to an annual business forum as Russian forces continue their nearly four-month-old large-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, another former Soviet republic.

In St. Petersburg, sitting alongside President Vladimir Putin, Toqaev pushed back against Moscow's narrative of the invasion, rejecting recognition for "quasi-states" like the Russia-backed, separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine.

He also vowed that Kazakhstan wouldn't break international sanctions imposed against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

As Toqaev toured, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Muqtar Tleuberdi, called in an article published by Russian RBC for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons around the world by 2045.

Putin has put Russian forces on higher alert and he and other Russian officials have hinted at a threat of a possible nuclear conflict as Ukraine has defended itself with Western support.

Tleuberdi referred to a nuclear-free world in an article dedicated to the 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) signed by Kazakhstan and 85 other states.

In the article, he suggested all countries -- including those that currently have nuclear weapons -- should rid the globe of such weapons by the UN centenary.

Kazakhstan famously agreed to give up what was then the world's fourth-largest nuclear stockpile in the four years following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It had inherited more than 1,000 nuclear warheads, more than 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), dozens of bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs, tons of nuclear material, and environmental damage from years of nuclear testing under Soviet rule.

With additional reporting by TASS

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakh-toqaev-visits-iran- nuclear-challenges/31905076.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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