(QHA) -

The European Union and Kazakhstan announced Thursday they had agreed on a new “partnership and cooperation” pact to bolster cooperation in areas from food safety to energy to fighting terrorism.

EU officials have repeatedly emphasized that the Kazakhstan deal wouldn’t affect that country’s agreements with Russia nor its status within the economic union. That union is currently a customs agreement, but it is set to become a broader Eurasian Economic Union on Jan. 1.

European leaders said the Kazakhstan deal proves countries don’t have to choose between ties with the EU and with Russia.

“International relations are not a zero-sum game. Europe is open to building strong and solid relations with the members of the Customs Union willing to do so” - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.

The agreement still must be formally adopted by both sides, and officials hope for a final signature the next year.

This is the first deal of this scope between the EU and a Central Asian country. It updates and expands a more limited EU-Kazakhstan agreement dating to 1999, and the renewal was driven partly by Kazakhstan’s hopes for joining the World Trade Organization.