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EU Wants Stronger Ties With Central Asia --> Steinmeier (file photo) (official site) March 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today called on the European Union to build stronger ties with Central Asia, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

Steinmeier made his comments after talks with senior Foreign Ministry officials from the five Central Asian states in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Steinmeier, whose country holds the current EU Presidency, stressed the importance of the region's energy resources.

But he also said a formal EU strategy for the region would include democratization efforts.

Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, however, warned against interference in domestic political affairs.

"In our opinion, it is crucially important to build relations on the basis of equal rights, mutual respect, noninterference in internal affairs, pragmatism, and [respect for] the vital interest of the parties, without bringing ideology into the matter," Norov said.

The EU imposed sanctions against the Uzbek government following violence in the eastern city of Andijon in May 2005.

(with material from agency reports)

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RFE/RL's coverage of Kazakhstan.