BAKU, Azerbaijan, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Azerbaijan state energy company SOCAR revealed this week it recently hosted top-level energy discussions with Kyrgyzstan officials on economic development.
The two Turkic-speaking countries -- both formerly part of the Soviet Union -- have taken steps this year to ramp up energy and cultural ties as impoverished Kyrgyzstan seeks to lessen its near total dependence on Russia for its energy supplies.
SOCAR said Tuesday company President Rovnag Abdullayev, met with Kyrgyzstani Minister of Industry and Energy Askarbek Shadiyev Aug. 10 in Baku and discussed how the oil and natural gas industry has led to the "rapid and sustainable economic development of Azerbaijan."
Abdullayev, the statement said, "gave detailed information about the regional oil and gas projects carried out in Azerbaijan, as well as SOCAR's large-scale investment programs implemented in the country and abroad."
Shadiyev spoke about "reforms" in Kyrgyzstan, presumably the establishment of parliamentary democracy there following a bloody April 2010 coup that forced former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee to Belarus.
Following the coup, which left 90 people dead, at least 470 more were killed in ethnic conflicts in the Central Asian nation.
Elections last year resulted in the presidency of Almazbek Atambayev, a wealthy businessman who has promised to bring prosperity and stability to the country.
Shadiyev said in last week's SOCAR meeting Kyrgyzstan is "interested in the cooperation with Azerbaijan, which is known as a reliable partner in the field of production and export of energy resources."
The meeting was the latest in a series of high-level contacts being hailed in both countries as marking an end to 20 years of diplomatic stagnation between the former Soviet states.
In March the new Kyrgyz president made an official visit to Azerbaijan, during which he laid a wreath at the grave of Azerbaijani national leader Heydar Aliyev.
Also in March, a SOCAR delegation visited Bishkek, where members announced plans to build the country's first oil refinery.
The proposed $100 million facility is meant to help shield the country from sudden price fuel spikes, such as experienced in 2010 when Russia canceled its preferential export duties on fuel to Kyrgyzstan during a feud with Bakiyev.
An oil refinery would be an important step in Kyrgyzstan's development as a nation and would help bring it more fully into the family of Turkic-speaking Muslim nations, Azerbaijan officials say.
The countries are also developing ties in the banking sector.
This month a delegation led by the president of Azerbaijani transmission system operator Azerenerji met with Aaly Karashev, Kyrgyzstan's first deputy prime minister, to discuss the establishment of a new investment and commercial bank in Bishkek.
Joint investment projects were on the agenda, including ventures in mining, energy, fertilizer plant and creamery construction, officials said.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov in May helped launch a new Azerbaijan-Kyrgyzstan intergovernmental cooperation commission, during which he called for investments in his country beyond the oil refinery, the Azerbaijan State Telegraphic Agency said.
"Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev's visit to Azerbaijan, meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and successful negotiations indicate that both countries are keen on developing the relations," he said. "I am sure that the agreements will be implemented shortly."
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