Government officials from Nur-Sultan and Moscow met on Monday to discuss how the two neighboring countries can strengthen relations in the realms of cross-border cooperation via the Caspian Sea.
The meeting brought together Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin and Governor of Russia’s southern Astrakhan Oblast Igor Babushkin, who led the country’s delegation.
“The parties discussed topical issues of cross-border cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation in trade and economic, investment, industrial, transit transport, tourism, cultural and humanitarian spheres,” reads a statement issued by the press service of the Kazakhstani prime minister.
According to the statement, officials discussed cooperation in tourism, including the possibility of launching a cruise line along the Caspian Sea. The route is supposed to link Aktau, a city along the east shore of the Caspian Sea, and Astrakhan, a Russian port city at the mouth of the river Volga.
At the meeting, the governor of Astrakhan touched upon the possibility of including Kazakhstan’s city in one of the routes for the Caspian cruises, which will be operated by the “Peter the Great” cruise ship. The vessel, which is currently under construction, is expected to hold up to 310 passengers housed in 155 cabins of different classes. “Peter the Great” will be ready to transport tourists in 2022.
According to Deputy General Director for Tourism of the Mosturflot Cruise Company, Svetlana Goncharova, the “Peter the Great” cruise ship may be used along the routes connecting several seas at once. One cruise line route is from Moscow along the entire Volga to Astrakhan, with access to the Caspian Sea and Baku. Another course will start from Baku to stretch to the Sea of Azov via the Volga and then to the Black Sea. The possibility of launching routes to Turkey is also being considered.
A link between Kazakhstan and Russia via the Caspian Sea may be a logical step to developing tourism. The Kazakh government is now working to boost the tourist influx into the country and already adopted a state program to develop the tourism industry for 2019-2025. The program should increase the flow of tourists to Kazakhstan by four times.
The development of tourism is one of the most important areas of economic cooperation in the Caspian Sea, which became possible after the five Caspian littoral states put an end to a decades-old dispute over the legal status of the Caspian waters in 2018. In addition, the Caspian littoral states signed other essential documents, including the Protocol on Cooperation in the Field of Combating Organized Crime, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Transport, the Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents in the Caspian Sea and others.
Meanwhile, Nur-Sultan and Moscow are also eager to step up mutual trade, which has been rising over the last five months. Officials expressed satisfaction over cooperation in bilateral cross-border trade on the sidelines of the meeting.
“This year, the dynamics of mutual trade between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation is actively recovering. In January-May 2021, trade grew by 26.2% and amounted to $8.6 billion. Kazakhstan’s exports to Russia increased by more than 40%. The paramount task is to bring the turnover indicators to $20 billion to the level of 2019,” reads the statement.