UK to help Kazakh exports bypass Russia, seeks critical minerals
Britain will help Kazakhstan develop export routes bypassing Russia, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said on a visit to the Central Asian nation on Saturday (18 March), where he also signed a memorandum on supplies of critical minerals.
Cleverly said London valued the position of Astana – which has traditionally been closely allied with Moscow – on the Ukrainian conflict. Kazakhstan has refused to support Russia’s invasion or recognise its annexation of Ukrainian territories.
“The UK greatly appreciates Kazakhstan’s consistent and principled position in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and your desire to bring about resolution to the war in line with the UN charter,” he told a briefing.
Cleverly, who met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and a number of other senior officials, said he discussed the disruptions in Kazakh oil exports – most of which go through Russia – and discussed ways to support the development of alternative routes such as the so-called Middle Corridor.
Kazakhstan key ‘Middle Corridor’ linking China to EU
Kazakhstan has a vital role to play in the Middle Corridor, or Trans-Caspian International Transport Route EU officials said at a public event in Brussels on Wednesday (15 June).
That route crosses the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and requires significant investment in order to boost its capacity, although Kazakhstan has already started diverting some crude shipments towards it.
Cleverly and Kazakh diplomats said they have signed a memorandum on critical minerals such as rare earth metals, but provided no details about it.
The landlocked former Soviet nation of 20 million accounts for almost a half of the world’s uranium output and has large deposits of rare earth minerals which the West has traditionally sourced from China or Russia.
Kazakhstan tells EU: We can supply all 30 critical raw materials you need
Officials from Kazakhstan told a Brussels audience on Thursday (17 November) that the resource-rich country in the near future be able to offer all the 30 critical raw materials the Union needs, according to a list adopted in 2020.
Kazakhstan, which has the longest land border with Russia of any former Soviet state, called in Russian troops to help put down street demonstrations weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. But since the invasion Tokayev has been careful to keep his distance from Moscow and keep relations open with the West.
Russia seeks to circumvent sanctions?
Russian companies have flooded their Kazakh partners in recent weeks with new requests to help them circumvent Western sanctions and import badly needed goods, seven sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said they had seen a rise in Russian requests to help get everything from bearings and aircraft parts to rare earth metals across Kazakhstan’s 7,591-kilometre land border with Russia.
Snap parliamentary elections
Kazakhs are voting in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday widely expected to cement President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s grip on power and complete the reshuffle of the ruling elite which began after he fully assumed leadership last year.
A stronger mandate will help Tokayev navigate through regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent damage to trade, investment and supply chains throughout the former Soviet Union.
While Tokayev has reshuffled the government, the lower house of parliament – elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping powers and led the ruling Nur Otan party – was not due for election until 2026, and the president called a snap vote.
Unlike his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, Tokayev has chosen not to lead the ruling party – now rebranded Amanat – but polls show it is likely to retain a comfortable majority and form the core of his support base in the legislature, especially in the absence of strong opposition parties on the ballot.
However, for the first time in almost two decades, several opposition figures are running as independents, a move which may allow some government critics to win a limited number of seats.
Tokayev has said that the vote would allow him to start implementing his plan to reform the country and ensure fairer distribution of its wealth.
The completion of political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s hand in foreign policy. Despite receiving Moscow’s backing during the 2022 unrest, he has refused to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or recognise its annexation of some Ukrainian territories.
At the same time, Astana is trying to maintain good relationships with both Moscow, its neighbour and major trading partner, and the West, which seeks to isolate Russia.