Saturday, 23 October 2021
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UK Defence ministers are travelling to five central Asian states this week in an effort to boost Britain's relationship with key countries in the region, to promote international co-operation on Afghanistan, and to improve UK supply lines ahead of the drawdown..

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond held meetings yesterday in Kazakhstan
where he signed an agreement allowing overflight access to assist in
transporting military equipment to and from Afghanistan. Mr Hammond and
Kazakh President Nazarbayev also agreed to start negotiations for a Land
Transit Agreement.

The Defence Secretary will today hold a series of meetings with senior
figures of the Uzbekistan government. Discussions will focus on starting
talks for a Land Transit Agreement to open up a Northern Supply Route to
get military equipment out of Afghanistan as Britain prepares to end
combat operations by the end of 2014.

Armed Forces Minister, Nick Harvey, will follow this up with visits this
week to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

This engagement with Governments in the region is an essential part of
the UK's security interests in helping to secure the long-term stability
of Afghanistan, which borders three of the Central Asian states. The
UK's Defence relationship with these countries also includes offering
places on training courses, such as at the Royal College of Defence
Studies, and English language training.

Speaking from the Kazakh capital, Astana, Defence Secretary Philip
Hammond said:

"It's vital that we secure the supply lines we need to get our equipment
home as combat operations finish by the end of 2014. We have a major
logistical operation to undertake to get around 11,000 containers and
around 3,000 armoured vehicles back from Afghanistan and we will need to
work with our partners in the region to do so.

"Central Asia plays a pivotal role in Afghanistan, so we want to build
on our existing links to strengthen our engagement, including with
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We have a shared interest in the stability of
the region and we want to work together to ensure a stable future for
Afghanistan and its neighbours."

Last week, the Europe Minister, David Lidington, made a statement in the
House of Commons on the importance of the UK's relationship with the
countries of Central Asia, marking two decades since the UK established
diplomatic relations with the countries.

The Europe Minister said in his statement:

"Active and constructive UK engagement with these countries remains
essential. They constitute a region of growing importance for the UK's
prosperity and security interests. We have a commitment to promoting the
core values of rule of law, human rights and democracy that we hold dear
and that we regard as the best basis for future stability and growth in
this region."

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