World, Europe

French president in Kazakhstan on 1st official visit

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Emmanuel Macron sign declaration of intent on cooperation on 'strategic minerals'

Elena Teslova  | 01.11.2023 - Update : 01.11.2023
French president in Kazakhstan on 1st official visit


French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Kazakhstan on Wednesday on his first official visit to the Central Asian country.

Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov welcomed Macron at the capital Astana's airport, expressing confidence that the visit will bolster the bilateral strategic partnership, the Kazakh presidential press service said in a statement.

The French head of state then met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at his residence Akorda, where a greeting ceremony was held. The two leaders shook hands, introduced their ministers and listened to the national anthems.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting in an expanded format, Tokayev called France "one of the largest trading partners of Kazakhstan."

"For 8 months of this year, the trade volume between our countries increased by 21% compared to last year and reached $2.7 billion. France is also among our main foreign investors," he said.

Over the past 15 years, France invested about $18.7 billion to Kazakhstan, and more than 170 French companies work in the energy, nuclear industry, mining, chemical, engineering, construction, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, the president explained.

The Kazakh president said the two sides signed a joint declaration of intent on cooperation on "strategic minerals."

Macron is said to be seeking to expand the supply of uranium from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for French nuclear facilities.

France and the EU used to import uranium from Niger and Russia, but after a coup in the West African country, the new military administration stopped uranium supplies to Paris, whereas supplies from Moscow are under the threat of sanctions due to the war in Ukraine.

Macron praises Kazakhstan's position on Ukraine

For his part, Macron praised Kazakhstan's position on Ukraine, telling Tokayev he "does not underestimate pressure" that "some may be putting" on him.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan is Russia’s longtime ally and close economic partner, and has walked a delicate line since Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine in February 2022. It has not condemned Russia, but has called for peace.

"France appreciates the path you are following for your country, refusing to be a vassal of any power, and seeking to build numerous and balanced relations with different countries in the interest of your people. Such a philosophy is close to France," he said.

The president said he is glad to have friends who stand for independence "in a world where major powers want to become hegemons."

He also offered condolences to families of workers killed in a fire that broke out on Saturday at a mine near the Kazakh city of Karaganda.

Macron's office earlier announced that the two presidents plan to address international and regional issues, and prospects for strengthening economic ties between the two countries, in particular the development of trade and investment, and cooperation in the energy sector.

After Kazakhstan, Macron, together with ministers and heads of large corporations, will visit Uzbekistan.

Commenting at a news conference in Moscow on the meeting of Russia's ally Kazakhstan with a leader of an "unfriendly" state France, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "Kazakhstan is a sovereign state and develops relations with all countries at its discretion."

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