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On Central Asian Tour, Ashton Emphasizes 'Shared Security Challenges'


EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton meets Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev in Bishkek.
EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton meets Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev in Bishkek.
European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton is in the Kyrgyz capital, the first stop of a tour of Central Asia.

At a news conference in Bishkek, Ashton said the European Union and Central Asia face "shared security challenges."

"In this region, we face increasing and new challenges," Ashton said. "We talked about the developments of Afghanistan and the importance of the future of that country. We share a common aim in promoting a secure Afghanistan and the prosperous region as a whole. I know that to make sure that we can jointly tackle each challenge, we agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the security area and to have a regular high-level security dialogue."

Ashton was speaking at a joint news conference with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev.

Earlier, she chaired an EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting.

The gathering brought together the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, as well as the deputy foreign ministers of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Ashton said the sides “agreed that we should step up our cooperation to strengthen our economic relations and work to develop full potential of our trade and investment relations."

She said the issues of democratization, human rights, and development of civil society were also touched upon during the talks.

Noting that Kyrgyzstan had received “substantial aid” from the European Union, Abdyldaev emphasized the importance of strong relations with Brussels.

"I would like to stress that since the independence of Kyrgyzstan, the European Union has always been and remains one of the main targets of our foreign policy," Abdyldaev said.

"We enjoy very close, good, and fruitful relations on the political, economic, and cultural levels. Our common agenda is very broad and covers multiple questions, including the issues of democratization and the rule of law."

During her visit, Ashton also held talks with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev.

She is to travel to Uzbekistan on November 28 before heading to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

Human Rights Watch has called on Ashton to use the tour to urge local authorities to release wrongfully imprisoned activists.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Interfax
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