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Germany Banks on Kazakhstan, Central Asia to Pressure Russia

Kazakhstan’s support is vital for enforcing sanctions against Russia and ending the war, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said as he met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Berlin on Wednesday, as EU countries seek to win over Central Asia as a key geopolitical ally.

Kazakhstan has remained neutral in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is not subject to Western sanctions. However, the two former Soviet republics are close allies, linked by the world’s longest continuous land border and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) customs union. As such, Kazakhstan offers a potential loophole to evade sanctions and plays a key role in preventing illicit trade.

“It’s important that the Kazakh government supports us in preventing the circumvention of sanctions and that it has taken countermeasures,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin after the meeting with Tokayev, adding that both countries are looking to intensify their collaboration with regard to foreign affairs and geopolitics.

In return, Tokayev assured Scholz of his support.

“Germany should not be afraid that we would possibly do anything to get around the sanction regime,” he insisted, saying that his country “supports the sanctions regime”.

The meeting was the first in a series of bilateral and multilateral talks with Central Asian leaders in Berlin on Thursday and Friday, reflecting the region’s growing importance in Western geostrategic considerations, given its proximity to Russia and its wealth of natural resources.

As EU countries are boycotting Russian oil, Kazakhstan has stepped in, increasing its deliveries to Germany.

“Kazakhstan is a focal point of the EU’s Global Gateway initiative, with which we want to advance key infrastructure projects,” Scholz said, referring to the EU’s global investment programme to strengthen the alliance’s ties with emerging economies and the global south.

But Kazakhstan is taking a more multifaceted approach to the West. While Tokayev described Germany as “Kazakhstan’s most important partner in Europe”, he also stressed the close ties and “friendly relations” with Russia.

While Tokayev benefited from Russia’s intervention in Kazakhstan when the country faced riots and unrest against his semi-autocratic government in 2022, the country has also resisted Russian attempts to lure it into its coalition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Still, Tokayev strongly condemned the war and demanded that both sides “quickly and immediately cease all military actions”, saying the situation was “now very serious” and it was time to find a solution that both sides could live with.

Source: Euractiv