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Macron calls to strengthen partnerships in Central Asia visit

By AFP - Nov 01,2023 - Last updated at Nov 01,2023

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (left) shakes hands with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the Registan square in Samarkand, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan — French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Uzbekistan on Wednesday evening after a trip to Kazakhstan, part of a two-day tour to boost France’s footprint in Central Asia.

The French leader’s visit comes as European nations jostle for influence in the resource-rich region, where Russia, China, Turkey and Europe all have economic interests.

Visiting Kazakhstan’s capital Astana earlier, Macron said he wanted to “strengthen... complement and accelerate” France’s partnership with the country.

Central Asia, which has long been under Russian influence and was part of the Soviet Union, is receiving increasing attention from other powers as Moscow is taken up with its war in Ukraine.

Macron acknowledged the “geopolitical pressures” being put on Kazakhstan.

“I do not underestimate the geopolitical difficulties, the pressures, sometimes the jostling to which you may be subjected,” Macron told Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

“In a world where great powers want to become hegemonies and where regional powers are becoming unpredictable,” the French president said he welcomed Kazakhstan’s “refusal... to take the route of becoming a vassal”.

Tokayev in turn said France was his country’s “key and reliable partner in the EU” and that he wanted to give their partnership “extra impetus”.

“Kazakhstan is the world’s top uranium producer, contributing over a quarter of nuclear fuel consumed in Europe,” Tokayev said.

“With nuclear power comprising 63 per cent of France’s energy sector, there is vast potential for further cooperation,” he added.


Military radars 


The leaders signed a series of contracts in sectors ranging from minerals and energy to pharmaceuticals and aerospace.

French energy giant EDF is in the running to build Kazakhstan’s first nuclear power station — a project due to be decided on in a referendum this year.

The Elysee also announced Paris would supply Ground Master 400 air defence radar systems to Kazakhstan to boost the country’s “sovereignty”.

France is the fifth-biggest foreign investor in Kazakhstan, ahead of China, mainly because of the involvement of energy giant TotalEnergies in the massive Kashagan offshore oil field project.

The head of French uranium company Orano, which already has a mine in Kazakhstan, is in Macron’s delegation.

Trade turnover between France and Kazakhstan reached 5.3 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in 2022 and Kazakhstan supplies around 40 per cent of France’s uranium needs.


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