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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French, Kazakhs Sign Raft of Deals

ReutersSarkozy and Nazarbayev meeting Tuesday in Astana, where the two presided over energy and arms agreements.

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — French President Nicolas Sarkozy scored a diplomatic coup Tuesday during a visit to energy-rich Kazakhstan, overseeing an agreement to allow military hardware for French forces fighting in Afghanistan to pass through Kazakh territory and clinching lucrative energy deals.

 Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the transit agreement signed Tuesday governs the movement of military hardware and personnel to supply French forces serving with NATO in nearby Afghanistan.

The energy deal, worth an estimated $1.46 billion, was signed to formalize the acquisition by Total and GDF Suez of a 25 percent stake in the Khvalynskoye offshore natural gas field project in the Caspian Sea.

The field is now being developed by LUKoil, and is expected to start operations in 2016. It could produce up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas per year, by some estimates.

The deal will see an increase in Total’s role in Kazakhstan, where it already controls a 16.8 percent stake in the vast Kashagan oil field project.

Kazakhstan also awarded a consortium of French companies a deal to take part in building a crucial $2 billion oil pipeline linking the vast Kashagan field to the Caspian. Energy supplies through the route will be transported across the inland sea by tanker to Azerbaijan and pumped by pipeline westward to Europe, circumventing Russia.

Other commercial accords included an agreement to create a joint venture between the two countries’ state-owned nuclear power companies to produce and market nuclear fuel.

France’s Thales signed a $150 million contract to supply radios to the Kazakh army. The company hopes that the deal will lead to a bigger, $3 billion contract to supply communications equipment to the Kazakh military — a market dominated by Russian suppliers.