Medvedev to Discuss Space Center, Arms Deals during Kazakh Visit

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to discuss space exploration and military cooperation with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, during his first trip abroad as president on May 22-23, RIA-Novosti reported Thursday.

Medvedev's visit to Kazakhstan 'reaffirms the maturity of the Russian-Kazakh strategic partnership,' Russian presidential aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said.

The two-day talks will see an 'exchange of views' on the use of the Baikonur space center, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan, and cooperation in the use and development of the Glonass navigation system, Prikhodko added.

Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), which is designed for both military and civilian use, and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

The agenda for the talks will also include joint military cooperation, in particular the modernization of Kazakhstan's armed forces. "They are modernizing their air defense and are showing an interest in Russian air defense systems," a Kremlin source said.

During the talks, Medvedev and Nazarbayev are expected to discuss exploration of the Caspian Sea's resources and a strengthening of economic ties that saw bilateral trade exceed $16.5 billion in 2007, Prikhodko said.

Among the international issues, the presidents will discuss cooperation in the framework of Eurasec, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

A "substantial package" of bilateral agreements is due to be signed after the talks.

Medvedev's visit to Kazakhstan will be followed by a two-day trip to China, during which the countries will sign a number of documents, including a joint declaration on key international issues.

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