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Macron visits Kazakhstan in first leg of Central Asia trip

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 1, 2023 3:24 PM 2 min read
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev shake hands at the end of a contract signing ceremony at the Presidential palace in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Nov. 1, 2023. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)
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French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in the Kazakh capital Astana on Nov. 1 on the first leg of a trip to Central Asia that will also see him visit neighboring Uzbekistan.

Macron met with Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and took part in the France-Kazakhstan business forum.

France has seen increased business dealings with Kazakhstan, and has become the country's fifth largest foreign investor, ahead of China, Le Monde wrote on Nov. 1.

"Trade turnover between France and Kazakhstan reached €5.3 billion ($5.6 billion) in 2022 and Kazakhstan supplies around 40% of France's uranium needs."

In addition, Kazakhstan has upped its oil exports to Europe since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Situated politically somewhere between Russia and the West, Kazakhstan has moved to comply with sanctions against Russia and refused to recognize the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, but still retains close economic and poltical ties with Moscow.

There have also been concerns that Russia continues to circumvent sanctions by doing business through third-party countries, including Kazakhstan.

Macron told Tokayev during their meeting on Nov. 1 that he appreciated Kazakhstan's refusal to side with Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kazakhstan was free to develop ties with any country, but also said that Russia valued its relations with the country "very highly."

At the same time, Kazakhstan has long historical ties with Russia and a considerable ethnic Russian minority. It is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), along with Russia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan.

CSTO troops, with a significant Russian contingent, were deployed to Kazakhstan during violent riots that erupted there in January 2022.

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