Kazakhstan's president said during a visit to Berlin on Thursday that his country was willing to increase oil deliveries to German over the long term, as resource-poor Berlin seeks alternatives to imports from Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said during a press conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Astana had shipped 500,000 metric tons of oil to Germany via Russia's Druzhba pipeline this year, following Berlin's decision to stop buying Russian oil.
"At our German friends' request, I have confirmed our country's readiness to increase oil supplies and make them long-term," Tokayev told a briefing.
He described Germany as a "strategic partner country in the European Union." He also invited Scholz to visit Astana at his convenience.
Main Central Asian trading partner 'by a distance'
Scholz, meanwhile, described Kazakhstan as "an important partner to broaden our supply channels, for example with the import of crude oil, and to make us independent from Russian energy deliveries."
Scholz said Kazakhstan was Germany's most important Central Asian trading partner "by a distance," and told reporters that he and Tokayev had agreed to improve conditions for trade and investment.
"We clearly discussed how the rule of law also plays a large role," Scholz said. "The president described to me his plans to expand the rule of law to protect human rights and democratic principles in the country."
Kazakhstan regularly scores poorly in various global liberty and freedom indices, for instance being placed 134th — between Uganda and Sri Lanka — in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, and scoring just 0.28 out of 1.00 — the same as Turkey and Algeria — in the 2022 Electoral Democracy Index.
Tokayev won in a landslide in snap elections in 2022, wining 80% of the vote with no other candidate managing even 5%, despite recent widespread public protests. OSCE observers praised the ballot as "efficiently prepared," but noted the lack of real competition and urged the country to consider legislation to ensure "genuine plurality." Voter turnout was a record low, but still was put at 69%.
Central Asian Berlin summit on Friday
Thursday's bilateral appointment precedes a regional summit in Berlin on Friday, which leaders from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will also attend.
Traditionally with close ties to Russia and formerly a part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has sought to distance itself somewhat from its main historical ally since the invasion of Ukraine. Scholz portrayed the oil deliveries as an example of Astana helping Berlin uphold and exceed the requirements of EU sanctions against Russia.
"It is good and helpful that Kazakhstan supports us in avoiding breaching sanctions and has set up active countermeasures," Scholz said, DW reports.