Putin, Erdogan and Raisi in Central Asia for diplomatic push

AFP , Thursday 9 Nov 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kazakhstan Thursday to cement Moscow's ties with its old ally, while Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi criticised the West over the Israeli war on Gaza, during the 16th Economic Cooperation Organization Summit in Uzbekistan.

Russian president Vladimir Putin inspects a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Astana, 9 November 2023. AFP



The visits are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic activity in Central Asia, as Europe, Russia, Turkey, Iran and China all vie for influence in the region.

Speaking at an economic summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the leaders of both Russia and Kazakhstan highlighted their historic connections.

Putin said the two countries were "not just allies but closest allies", while Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev praised an "alliance with a rich past and a bright future".

Putin offered to boost cooperation in a string of sectors; from the military and space to agriculture and nuclear power.

Moscow has upped its investments in Central Asia's energy sector, having been excluded from most of the European market under Western sanctions.

In the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, the leaders of Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and other Central Asian states were meeting for a summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation Wednesday.

While not on the official agenda, the Israeli war on Gaza was in the spotlight.

At the summit, Erdogan hardened his tone against both Israel and the West, while Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi repeated Tehran's vehement opposition to Israel.

Erdogan used a speech in Tashkent to call on Muslim countries to "raise our voices together to defend our Palestinian cause".

Iran's Raisi also repeated Tehran's attacks on the West and Israel in his address to the summit.

Erdogan and Raisi also discussed the conflict in a separate bilateral meeting, according to the Turkish president's office.

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