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Putin Praises Kazakh Ties, As Astana Signs Landmark EU Pact

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev ahead of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization and Eurasian Economic Union summits in Moscow on December 21.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed Moscow's links with Kazakhstan just hours before Astana signed a deal on closer ties with the European Union.

The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed in the Kazakh capital of Astana on December 21 by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov.

Astana and Brussels concluded four years of negotiations on the accord one year ago.

The EU is eager to strengthen cooperation with Kazakhstan, the biggest economy in Central Asia.

The accord is looser than the political Association Agreements and accompanying free-trade deals that the EU has offered eastern neighbors like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

But it is more ambitious than anything previously agreed with any other Central Asian state or with Russia.

As the EU and Kazakhstan were cementing closer ties, Putin was hailing Russia's relations with Astana, a key member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

"We continue to work on the convergence of our policies, including in the sphere of customs and technical regulations, and in other areas. All this inevitably leads to a positive effect," Putin told Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in the Kremlin on December 21.

Eurasian Summits

Nazarbaev is in Moscow to take part in meetings of the Russian-led EEU Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) meetings on December 21.

Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said the agenda of a session of the CSTO's Collective Security Council will include choosing a successor for Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha and adopting a statement on the fight against terrorism.

The organization groups Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The Supreme Eurasian Economic Council will also hold a session, during which Ushakov said Russia will suggest taking "joint protective measures" following the establishment of a Ukrainian-EU free-trade zone planned for the end of the month.

The EEU, which currently brings more than 180 million people into a single market, was officially established in 2015 and includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

With reporting by dpa, TASS, and Interfax
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