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John Kerry courts Kazakh leader as US eyes stronger Central Asia ties

Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed US interests in Kazakhstan on Monday in talks with veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev who has lured huge Western investments to his Central Asian state while keeping it in Moscow’s political orbit.

Kerry is touring ex-Soviet Central Asia to underline Washington’s continued commitment to the energy-rich region amid a drawdown in US forces in Afghanistan, a more assertive Russia and the emergence of the Islamic State militant threat. Of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian states, only Kazakhstan, a vast steppe nation of 18 million people with big international investments in its oil and gas sectors, has emerged as stable and prosperous, though it brooks no democratic opposition.

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