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Putin, Erdogan, Raisi in Central Asia diplomatic push

Published : Friday, 10 November, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 246

Putin, Erdogan, Raisi in Central Asia diplomatic push

Putin, Erdogan, Raisi in Central Asia diplomatic push

ASTANA, Nov 9: Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kazakhstan on Thursday to cement Moscow's ties with its old ally, while Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the West over the Israel-Hamas war during a separate trip to Uzbekistan.

The visits are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic activity in Central Asia, as Europe, Russia, Turkey, Iran and China all vie for influence in the region.

The former Soviet Republics in Central Asia are seeking to diversify their international partnerships.

Moscow's sway over a region it considers its sphere of influence has waned since it invaded Ukraine last February.

Kazakhstan has not backed the invasion of Ukraine and has promised to enforce sanctions on Moscow.

The West has raised concerns that ex-Soviet countries are being used as a back door for Russia to import banned goods.

But speaking at an economic summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the leaders of both Russian and Kazakhstan highlighted their historic connections.

Putin said the two countries were "not just allies but closest allies", while Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev praised an "alliance with a rich past and a bright future".

Putin offered to boost cooperation in a string of sectors -- from the military and space to agriculture and nuclear power.

Moscow has upped its investments in Central Asia's energy sector, having been excluded from most of the European market under Western sanctions.

It is also discussing building nuclear power plants and hydroelectric projects in several countries.

But it faces intense competition from China, which has become a major investor across Central Asia through its Belt and Road Initiative, a gigantic infrastructure project.

Europe is also eyeing economic opportunities in the region.

Last week French President Emmanuel Macron made a high-profile visit to both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, alongside a 60-strong delegation of French business leaders.

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