Nazarbayev made the comments during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the presidential palace in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The two leaders had previously met along with their aides for a conversation that dealt with ties between the two countries and various international issues.

Netanyahu asked Nazarbayev for assistance in getting Israel accepted as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council.

“We helped you get accepted as a member of the Security Council and now we are asking you to help us be a member of the Council as well,” Netanyahu said. Kazakhstan will begin serving as one of 15 members of the UN Security Council in January. Israel is working to become a member of the Security Council in 2019. Netanyahu emphasized that should this indeed happen, it would be further proof of the dramatic changes that Israel’s foreign relations are undergoing and how Israel is not isolated on the international stage.

Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since it declared independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has visited Israel twice. In his discussions with Netanyahu he expressed his country’s desire to increase cooperation with Israel in the fields of agriculture and technology, in which Israel excels.

Kazakhstan is a Sunni Muslim country with a secular regime located in Central Asia which is rich in mineral resources. It provides some 20 percent of Israel’s oil, totaling approximately $700 million a year.

Netanyahu arrived in Kazakhstan after a short six-hour visit Tuesday to Azerbaijan, which is also one of Israel’s biggest oil providers. Netanyahu’s visit to Azerbaijan was highlighted by the surprise announcement by President Ilham Aliyev that his country has signed contracts worth $5 billion over the years to buy weapons and security equipment from Israel.

The economic ties between the countries stand at he center of Netanyahu’s visit to Kazakhstan and a conference featuring business people from both states is taking place during his trip. Netanyahu addressed the conference, calling on the Kazakh business leaders to discover Israel’s business potential and to increase cooperation.

Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is accompanying Netanyahu on the trip, told The Jerusalem Post that “Kazakhstan is a massive country, rich in natural resources, which enjoys close relations with Russia and China, as well as having good relations with the US.”

According to Elkin, Kazakhstan’s special strategic importance could serve as an important bridge for the Israeli economy and help companies from Israel enter the Chinese market. “Israel has still not discovered the Kazakh potential, and it is also the government’s responsibility to promote business with it.”

JPost