Blinken promises US aid, support to Central Asia after Ukraine fears

Blinken promises US aid, support to Central Asia after Ukraine fears
# 28 February 2023 18:27 (UTC +04:00)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday promised US help for Central Asia to reduce the region's reliance on Russia, vowing support for the sovereignty of former Soviet republics unnerved by the Ukraine war, APA reports citing France24.

Days after the anniversary of the invasion, the top US diplomat met his counterparts from all five Central Asian nations where Moscow has long been the top power and a magnet for workers, and where neighbouring China also has a growing influence.

Blinken announced $25 million in new support, on top of a previous $25 million announced in September, to help Central Asian nations diversify trade routes and create jobs at home.

The initiatives include English-language education, development of electronic payment systems, and training for returned migrant workers.

"I reaffirm the United States' unwavering support for Kazakhstan, like all nations, to freely determine its future, especially as we mark one year since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine," Blinken told a news conference.

In remarks with counterparts from all five nations -- Kazakhstan as well as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- Blinken said the United States backed their "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."

Blinken later headed to the imposing palace in the capital to meet President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who voiced "appreciation" for US support for Kazakhstan's sovereignty.

Tokayev said, without elaborating before the press, that he had received three personal messages from President Joe Biden.

"We have built very good and reliable long-term partnerships in so many strategically important areas" with the United States, Tokayev said.

Blinken also welcomed recent political reforms by Tokayev.

The top US diplomat will travel later to Uzbekistan, which along with Kazakhstan is seen by US officials as the country most open to building relations with Washington.