ASTANA: France’s president Emmanuel Macron arrived in Kazakhstan today, the first leg of his trip to Central Asia, a region long regarded as Russia’s backyard and which has drawn fresh Western attention since the war in Ukraine began.
Oil-rich Kazakhstan has already emerged as a replacement supplier of crude to European nations turning off Russian supply and an important link in the new China-Europe trade route bypassing Russia.
At a meeting with Kazakhtan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Macron complimented Astana for refusing to side with Moscow on Ukraine and said that the two countries planned to sign significant business deals.
“We will be able to make progress on important international matters, underscore our commitment to the United Nations charter, and principles such as territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” he said through an interpreter.
Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the West’s growing diplomatic activity in former Soviet Central Asian nations. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that the West was trying to pull Russia’s “neighbours, friends and allies” away from it.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where Macron will go next, have refused to recognise Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories and have pledged to abide by Western sanctions against Moscow, while calling both Russia and Western nations such as France their strategic partners.
In addition to oil, Kazakhstan is a major exporter of uranium, with France’s Orano already operating in a joint venture with its state nuclear firm Kazatomprom.
The Kazakh government said Tokayev and Macron planned to discuss energy cooperation, trade, and regional and global matters.
“We can call your visit historic, very important,” Tokayev told Macron.