Photo’s source:; GCC-C5 July 2023 Summit


Kazakhstan and the Middle East have multifaceted historical connections, involving various aspects such as politics, economy, and culture.

Historically, Kazakhstan and the Middle East have had close political ties. In the 13th century, during the rule of the Mongol Empire, there was frequent trade between Kazakhstan and the Middle East. Both regions have also been influenced and ruled by empires or states such as Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia, leading to substantial contact and interaction.

Kazakhstan, positioned at a pivotal point along the Silk Road, has a longstanding trade history with the Middle East. In ancient times, Kazakhstan traded with the Middle East, exchanging goods, such as silk, spices, jewels, and tea through land and sea routes. Additionally, trade in agricultural products between Kazakhstan and the Middle East has been historically significant, with Kazakhstan exporting products like wheat, barley, corn, and cotton to the Middle East.

There is a longstanding history of cultural exchange between Kazakhstan and the Middle East. Linguistically, Kazakh belongs to the Turkic language family and shares significant similarities with languages spoken in the Middle East, such as Turkish and Azerbaijani, reflecting historical interactions among Turkic ethnic groups. Historically, Kazakhstan and the Middle East have also exchanged literature and art. For instance, Kazakh epics like “Manas” share narrative styles and themes with epics from the Middle East, showcasing cultural exchanges along the ancient Silk Road. Additionally, architectural and artistic styles in Kazakhstan and the Middle East exhibit similarities, with Muslim-style mosques, palaces, and traditional handicrafts and decorations being found in both regions.

Islam is the predominant religion in Kazakhstan and the Middle East, with Muslims in both regions sharing common religious traditions and values. Muslims in Kazakhstan and the Middle East adhere to the teachings of the Quran, observe the five pillars of Islam, including prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage, and celebrate important Islamic holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Muharram.

Human society has entered a new era since the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars. The Industrial Revolution changed people’s way of life and production methods, while the two World Wars profoundly altered the pattern of international relations. Globalization is accelerating, and international relations are showing a trend toward multipolarity and complexity, with opportunities and challenges coexisting. In this context, analyzing the political and economic relations between Kazakhstan and the Middle East is of great importance and urgency. It is crucial to deepen understanding of the relationship between Central Asia and the Middle East and can also contribute to promoting regional and global development and cooperation.

Political and diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern countries

Nowadays, Middle Eastern countries possess significant political, business and intellectual potential. Since gaining independence, the Republic of Kazakhstan has actively sought to foster friendships with the countries of the Middle East. Kazakhstan viewed countries in the Middle East as prospective partners in economic, political, and cultural realms, with all the necessary prerequisites and conditions for mutual understanding and collaboration in place.

When Kazakhstan declared independence, it received full support for its foreign policy actions and initiatives from Arab countries. According to former Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Saudi Arabia, Bagdad Amreyev, interaction with Arab states helps Kazakhstan to diversify its integration into the global community, balance its foreign policy, strengthen its international standing, attract investments and funds, revive previously dormant cultural ties, garner support from Arab states for its international projects and initiatives, and so on.

Given its international reputation and pro-active foreign policy, the majority of Arab countries perceive Kazakhstan positively. Arab experts view Kazakhstan as a dynamically developing state in Central Asian region. Also, Arab media highly estimates the economic, political and social developments taking place in Kazakhstan and refrains from any criticism of its domestic or foreign policies.

Arab experts also notice the growing significance of the region in international policy. Nevertheless, they express some anxiety and worry about the weak role that Arab Countries play in Central Asia. Considering the Muslim identity of Central Asian countries, Tayzhan Bolathan believes that Central Asia has to be regarded as a continuation of the Middle East in geopolitical and civilizational senses. According to Bolathan, Central Asian countries are historical relatives of Middle Eastern nations and share more similarities with them. He says that Central Asian countries have more in common with Middle Eastern Arab countries. Both regions boast abundant natural resources and hold strategic geopolitical importance, attracting the interests of global powers with their closely situated military bases. The political elites in both areas remain wary of radical political shifts, including potential power transitions, the rise of Islamism, and public protests.

Kazakhstan has established solid diplomatic relations with multiple countries in the Middle East. In 1992, Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations with several Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, Türkiye, Oman, etc.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the largest and wealthiest states of the Middle East, was among the first Arab and Muslim countries to recognize the independence of Kazakhstan on December 30, 1991. The Protocol establishing official diplomatic relations between the two states was signed on April 30, 1994, during the visit of Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Discussions during this visit focused on strengthening bilateral relations across all areas of partnership. Additionally, preparations were made for the official visit of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which took place in September 1994.

Therefore, the President of Kazakhstan’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia marked the beginning of an important stage of bilateral relations development and their advance forward. Another significant milestone in the relationship occurred when His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation (at the time the Second Deputy Prime Minister), and General Inspector of the Kingdom visited Kazakhstan in 2000. This visit laid a strong foundation for political dialogue and cooperation across various areas between the two countries.

In addition, Türkiye’s attention to Kazakhstan began in the 1990s. On December 16, 1991, Türkiye recognized Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union, becoming the first nation to establish diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, relations between Türkiye and Kazakhstan saw significant development at both official and grassroots levels. In 2009, the two countries established a strategic partnership, and in 2012, then-Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Kazakhstan, further elevating the strategic partnership to the establishment of a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, placing the Türkiye-Kazakhstan relationship at the highest level in Türkiye’s diplomatic priorities. At the end of 2021, cooperation between Türkiye and Kazakhstan made new progress, notably within the framework of cooperation among Turkic-speaking countries. They renamed the existing Turkic-speaking countries cooperation organization to the Organization of Turkic States and introduced the “Turkic World 2040 Vision.”

Also, various international policies proposed by Kazakhstan have also succeeded, receiving support from numerous Middle Eastern countries and positively influencing the global political environment. For example, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), proclaimed in 1992, has become one of the most notable and successful foreign policy actions in Kazakhstan’s history. Through its implementation, Kazakhstan has solidified its standing in the global community as a nation firmly dedicated to promoting peace, security and cooperation for the common good.

Furthermore, Kazakhstan’s involvement in Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA) extends to Middle Eastern countries. As a Middle Eastern country, Türkiye held the Chairmanship of CICA from 2010 to 2014. Additionally, countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, and Israel from the Middle East are member states of CICA. Moreover, the Arab League and TURKPA serve as observer organizations of CICA. This participation from Middle Eastern countries has bolstered their diplomatic ties with Kazakhstan and fostered closer cooperation. For instance, in August 2022, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with Adel Tursunov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, to discuss cooperation within the framework of CICA. Shoukry expressed his appreciation for the role of Kazakhstan in the launch of the CICA. Tursunov emphasized Kazakhstan’s importance in its relations with Egypt and Egypt’s crucial role in the region.

In 2024, Kazakhstan is chairing six international organizations. These include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) and International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). Through these platforms, Kazakhstan engages in dialogues and cooperation with various countries, including Middle Eastern nations, on issues of common concern, further solidifying its position as an active participant in international affairs. Overall, Kazakhstan’s close cooperation with Middle Eastern countries not only protects its own national interests and sovereignty but also positively contributes to the region’s peace, stability, and prosperity.

Economic relations with Middle Eastern countries

Middle Eastern countries occupy a unique position in the global energy landscape, enabling them to create the largest financial and economic centers. Arab states are viewed as the most significant investment market for Western companies and, vice versa, as major investors in the economies of the US and EU.

Central Asian countries need finances to realize big economic projects in energy and transportation. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States could support the region to develop their relations with Central Asia. They have sufficient financial resources to exert more influence over the region. Therefore, Kazakhstan aims to attract Arab capital into its domestic economy, seeking new financial resources and extra credit funds to support its own development. Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt have engaged in close economic cooperation with Kazakhstan.

Saudi Arabia

In the view of most Central Asian countries, Saudi Arabia is not only the biggest oil exporter but also a financially rich state that could help them. Saudi investors have sponsored many infrastructural projects in Kazakhstan, including the construction of the Kazakh Parliament ($10 million), the Cardiologic center in Almaty ($5 million), the construction of a Cardiologic center in Astana ($8 million), or aid for the military school Jas Otan ($1 million).

The Saudi Arabian Development Fund has issued grants and credits to support many projects in Kazakhstan, particularly in underground communications and municipal development. The Saudi government and private businesses have significant interests in Kazakhstan’s agriculture and cattle-breeding sectors. Conversely, Kazakh investors are interested in the tourism and hotel business in Saudi Arabia.

As one of the world’s major oil producers, Saudi Arabia has seen substantial development in the petrochemical industry, playing a leading role regionally and globally. KSA is the founding member of the Organization of Exporters of Oil (OPEC). Kazakhstan also boasts considerable oil reserves and has educational institutions preparing scientists and experts for this promising sector. President Nazarbayev held meetings with Saudi officials, including the oil minister Ali An-Nuaymi and the head of the Saudi company “Sabik,” to discuss potential collaborations.

On March 7, 2024, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Saudi Arabian Minister of Energy Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud discussed prospects for energy and investment cooperation. Both parties expressed willingness to strengthen collaboration in energy and investment. During the meeting, Mohammad Abunayya, Chairman of the Saudi company ACWA Power, discussed plans for a joint investment project to construct a 1-gigawatt (GW) wind power plant in the Zhetisu Region and for the cooperation in green energy. Following the meeting, both governments signed an agreement to implement the construction of the wind power plant project.

The United Arab Emirates

Regarding the United Arab Emirates (UAE), officials view Kazakhstan as a crucial country in Central Asia. Arab media recognizes Kazakhstan as a favorable region with significant economic potential. Chances are that Arab businessmen can make significant progress in various sectors in Kazakhstan, including oil, gas, food industries, construction materials, equipment, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.

In fact, at the end of 2021, UAE-Kazakh bilateral trade reached US$709 million, an increase of almost 50% compared to 2020. The number of joint projects in various industries has also steadily increased in recent years. The UAE is Kazakhstan’s leading strategic, trade, and economic partner in the Arab region, most notably in the petrochemical, energy, transport, logistical services, agriculture, and aerospace sectors.

One of the notable UAE-financed projects is constructing the Abu Dhabi Plaza multifunctional complex in Astana, the tallest building in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Its completion has made a significant contribution to the development of Astana. Additionally, there are several major projects under the process in the oil and gas sectors, as well as in the banking industry. For example, JSC KazMunaiGaz and public joint-stock company Mubadala Development Company collaborated to explore and develop the Caspian Offshore.

The Islamic Infrastructure Fund, named Al-Hilal Bank, established by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Asian Development Bank, has a market capitalization of at least $500 million. It is the first bank in Kazakhstan operating under Sharia principles and the only Islamic bank in the post-Soviet area. The corporate sector, industry, and mineral extraction are given priority by Al-Hilal Bank, which intends to invest $1 billion in Kazakhstan.

The joint Kazakhstan-UAE Investment Fund “Al-Falah”, with a registered capital of $500 million, is actively involved in the Kazakhstan and neighboring countries’ markets. Approximately 10,000 Kazakhstan citizens currently reside in the UAE, mainly working in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, particularly in the trade sector and private businesses. UAE’s Etihad Airways has initiated direct flights between Abu Dhabi, Astana, and Almaty, enhancing connectivity. There are 50 UAE companies registered in Kazakhstan which operate in the tourism, transportation, and services sectors. Notably, PD World Transportation Company, based in the UAE, has significant plans to enter the Kazakhstani market.

In September 2022, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed the UAE’s commitment to strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation with Kazakhstan in all economic sectors. During the meeting, the Kazakh delegation presented the Emirati companies with 40 investment projects worth US $6.5 billion in mining, agriculture, oil and gas, and construction fields.

In addition, Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov emphasized the potential of the Trans-Caspian International Trade Route (TITR), known as the “Middle Corridor”, as a crucial hub for facilitating transcontinental trade and attracting private investments. Kazakhstan is actively developing the TITR and plans to build a shipbuilding plant along the Caspian Sea coast, thus leveraging its existing Caspian Sea Port at Aqtau.

The TITR begins at the Chinese Lianyungang Seaport, crosses into Kazakhstan at the Chinese-Kazakh border, traverses through Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea, extends to Azerbaijan and Georgia, and eventually reaches Europe. Goods are transported by rail to the Kazakh seaports of Aqtau and Kuryk, then shipped via the Caspian Sea to the Baku Port in Azerbaijan. From there, containers travel along the 826-kilometer Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, into Georgia and Türkiye. The route further branches into two paths toward Europe, with one passing through Turkish cities like Mersin and Istanbul, eventually reaching the Mediterranean Sea.


On February 5-7, 2021, a Kazakh-Egyptian trade and investment business forum was held in Egypt. During this event, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador Kairat Lama Sharif highlighted the mutual intention to enhance cooperation across all sectors, aiming to elevate the level of trade, economic, and investment relations between the two nations. He emphasized Kazakhstan’s view of Egypt as the “gateway” to Africa. Also, he expressed readiness to promote exports, leveraging the Kazakh-Egyptian Business Council and the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The forthcoming Free Trade Agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union member states and Egypt, opening access to Egypt’s market of over 100 million people, would also provide a significant boost to Kazakh exports. Several economic agreements were signed during the event, including agreements for the supply of bottled water and pharmaceuticals to the Egyptian market, as well as the acquisition of a copper deposit in Kazakhstan. This forum sparked interest among Egyptian businesses in Kazakh non-primary sector goods, ensured the establishment of direct contacts between domestic producers and potential Egyptian buyers and investors, and fostered information exchange on product quality and pricing.

In early April 2024, the Embassy of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan Investment Authority organized a roundtable meeting in Cairo for the major companies of the Egyptian Business Council for International Cooperation. Following discussions on trade and investment opportunities, the Kazakhstan Investment Authority and the Egyptian International Cooperation Business Council signed a cooperation memorandum. Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Egypt, Kairat Lama Sharif, stated that Egypt, as one of the three largest economies among Arab countries, has immense potential for strengthening economic and trade cooperation with Kazakhstan. He cited examples of many Kazakhstan convenience food producers showing interest in the Egyptian market, with a population of more than 105 million.


After analyzing the political and economic relations between Kazakhstan and the Middle East, several conclusions can be drawn.

Firstly, Kazakhstan and the Middle East have longstanding and diverse historical connections, spanning various fields, such as politics, economy, and culture. These connections go beyond historical trade exchanges, reflecting long-term exchanges and interactions between the two regions.

Secondly, from a political perspective, the diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Middle Eastern countries are becoming increasingly closer, garnering broad support and recognition from Middle Eastern nations. Kazakhstan’s importance in the Middle East is gradually growing, with both sides maintaining close cooperation in international affairs, contributing positively to regional and global peace, security, and development.

In the economic realm, cooperation between Kazakhstan and Middle Eastern countries is deepening. Middle Eastern countries have invested significant funds in Kazakhstan, supporting the implementation of numerous important projects in sectors, such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism. This investment and economic support from Middle Eastern countries contribute to the development and prosperity of both economies. The potential for economic cooperation between the two sides is enormous, injecting new vitality into regional and global economic growth.

Overall, the political and economic relations between Kazakhstan and the Middle East present a favorable development trend. Cooperation between Kazakhstan and Middle Eastern countries not only serves the interests of both sides but also contributes positively to the process of multipolarity and globalization worldwide.


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  1. Tayzhan Bolathan. Elshikundeliginen. 2016. (in Rus.).
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Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:

Mrs. Cao Chen

Mrs. Cao Chen is student at the Shanghai University, China. She is intern at MEPEI.

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