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Kazakhstan On Track For Closer Economic Ties With European Union

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (L) is welcomed by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before a meeting in Brussels.

The European Union and Kazakhstan are set to have closer economic relations starting May 1, when a partnership agreement negotiated in December takes effect, top officials said March 30.

Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan has sought to maintain good ties with both the EU and Russia as relations between Moscow and the West have soured over the crisis in Ukraine. Kazakhstan's economy is highly dependent on its neighbor.

The December agreement with the EU aims to boost relations and was forged even as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The agreement will provisionally apply starting May 1, EU President Donald Tusk said during a visit by Nazarbayev to Brussels on March 30.

"The EU is a very important partner," the Kazakh president later told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who noted that the 28-country bloc is Astana's biggest trade partner.

Juncker said he had raised problems relating to human rights and the rule of law in Kazakhstan during his meeting with Nazarabayev, but he noted that the country was undertaking "promising" reforms.

Based on reporting by dpa and Interfax