The president of Kyrgyzstan said on Saturday his ex-Soviet republic was ready to work with the EU, which hopes to tighten ties with a region Russia sees as its sphere of influence.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted global powers such as China and the European Union to seek a greater role in Central Asia.
This comes at a time when many in the region are questioning their long-standing ties with Russia and are seeking economic, diplomatic and strategic assurances elsewhere.
“Kyrgyzstan is ready to work hand in hand with the European Union to resolve shared problems, encourage dialogue and find lasting solutions,” said President Sadyr Japarov, whose country is an ally of Moscow.
He was speaking during a meeting with EU Council President Charles Michel.
Michel on Friday took part in a summit attended by the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The high-profile gathering in the resort of Cholpon-Ata on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul was the second summit between the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the EU, the top donor to the region and its main investment partner.
“We offer a sincere partnership” to the region’s five former Soviet republics, Michel told AFP in an interview Friday.
Japarov stressed the potential for solar and hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country of six million inhabitants where Central Asia’s main rivers rise.
Japarov also defended the planned Kambarata-1 dam, a huge project on the Naryn river, which flows through both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The dam and other hydroelectric projects have sparked tensions between states in Central Asia, where water shortages are increasingly frequent.
Russia remains the main power in the unstable and tightly controlled region, whose leaders have been criticized for helping Moscow circumvent Western sanctions over the war on Ukraine.
Neighbouring Afghanistan, under control of the Taliban, is also a source of instability.
Japarov and Michel issued a joint statement stressing their commitment to ensuring the Central Asian states remained independent.
On Friday, the Kyrgyz president openly called for the end of the war in Ukraine, another former Soviet republic.
It was a rare declaration from the leader of a country which refrains from publicly criticizing Moscow, on which it is still economically and military dependent.