| 31 March 2023, Friday |

Blinken warns Central Asian countries about dangers of Ukraine conflict; seeks to bolster C5+1 group ties

While Washington seeks deeper engagement with the five former Soviet republics in the region following the Russian invasion of Ukraine which began a year ago, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kazakhstan, his first stop to meet the Central Asian countries, on Tuesday

The US official embarked on his maiden visit to the region with the capitals of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as the top diplomat for President Joe Biden’s administration. Blinken held talks with the Kazakh foreign minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi, on Tuesday, after which he also met with the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

The talks were held between the leaders and foreign ministers of the so-called C5+1 group made up of the US, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. While the former soviet countries have had a somewhat close relationship with Russia, it has recently become strained following Moscow’s invasion of Kyiv and the effect it has had on the Central Asian countries particularly economically.

“We are watching compliance with sanctions very closely and we’re having an ongoing discussion with number of countries, including our C5 partners, on the economic spillover effects”, said Blinken at a press conference, after a meeting with the officials in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Furthermore, he also said how the US was the first country in December of 1991 to recognize Kazakhstan and remains “firmly committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Kazakhstan and countries across the region”, as per media reports.

The US official also announced a $25 million package as new funding to support economic growth in the region including new trade routes and helping companies find new exports. Meanwhile, the Central Asian countries have also adopted a neutral stance not being either pro-Russian or pro-Western and Tileuberdi said Kazakhstan would continue to do so amid the “complex international situation”.

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