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Afghanistan Focus Of NATO's First Central Asia Talks

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer speaks in Astana.
ASTANA (Reuters) -- NATO has held its first meeting in Central Asia to discuss issues ranging from Afghanistan to Caspian Sea cooperation.

The talks in the Kazakh capital take place days after Kyrgyzstan, one of the region's former Soviet republics, reversed its decision to shut down a U.S. military air base used to support operations in Afghanistan.

"Instability in Afghanistan affects Central Asia more than any other region -- from terrorism to drug-trafficking," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said at a lecture at the Kazakh Academy of State.

"By the same token, no region has more to gain from stability in Afghanistan than Central Asia," he said, ahead of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting on June 26.

Central Asia has gained significance for Washington as it boosts its Afghan force to fight the resurgent Taliban.

Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are, together with Russia, parts of a corridor along which the United States plans to supply its Afghan troops following attacks on convoys in Pakistan.

Earlier this week, Kyrgyzstan said its security service officers fought and killed five Islamist militants from a group long linked to Afghanistan's Taliban.