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U.S. To 'Strengthen' Ties With New Kazakh Government

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) shakes hands with Kazakh Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington on July 2.

Following talks with Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States seeks to "strengthen" its ties with the energy-rich Central Asian state.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov held talks with Pompeo and the U.S. national-security adviser during his visit to Washington on July 1-2.

The trip followed the election of Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev as Kazakhstan's new president last month.

Pompeo tweeted that it was "great to meet" Atamkulov on July 2.

"The United States strongly supports the U.S.-Kazakhstani enhanced strategic partnership and looks forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship" with Toqaev's new government, he wrote.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Pompeo "welcomed recent statements by [Toqaev] on increasing political participation in Kazakhstan and actions to strengthen the protection of fundamental freedoms for the people of Kazakhstan."

Pompeo also "praised Kazakhstan's global leadership in the repatriation and reintegration of its citizens from Syria."

Hundreds of Kazakh citizens linked to the extremist group Islamic State have been repatriated from Syria this year.

Meanwhile, White House national-security adviser John Bolton tweeted that he discussed "already robust" U.S.-Kazakh ties with Atamkulov and praised Kazakhstan for working with Washington "to advance energy, economic, security, and other regional priorities."

Toqaev, 66, was handpicked by former authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev to be his successor.

The June 9 early presidential election was marred by what international observers called "widespread voting irregularities."

Thousands of people were detained during protest rallies that followed the vote.

Nazarbaev, who officially stepped down as president in March following almost 30 years in power, continues to hold many important political positions and still wields considerable power within the country and inside his political party.

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