WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump and Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed on Tuesday to expand bilateral cooperation across a range of issues including trade, Afghanistan and North Korea.
The presidents emerged from a working lunch at the White House with a commitment to forge an “enhanced strategic partnership” between the United States and Kazakhstan, the Trump administration said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters after the lunch, Trump expressed appreciation for Nazarbayev’s “full support” of Washington’s efforts in Afghanistan.
He said that Nazarbayev offered “personal assurances” that Kazakhstan would go on providing “critical logistical support and access for our troops fighting ISIS and the Taliban.”
On the question of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, Trump called Kazakhstan a “valued partner in our efforts to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.”
Kazakhstan recently assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council and Nazarbayev said that his country’s priorities during its term would be Afghanistan and nuclear non-proliferation.
He recalled that his country, which inherited a significant portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal after the breakup of the USSR in 1991, voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons.
“Kazakhstan has a moral right to talk to the nations that are seeking nuclear weapons, and this is the way we’re talking to Iran, and this is the way we will be talking to North Korea,” Nazarbayev said, adding: “I think the North Korea issue can be solved by joining efforts between the United States, China and Russia.”
Trump touted plans by US corporate giants such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, General Electric and Boeing to make large investments in Kazakhstan.
The White House statement that followed the talks said Washington pledged to work with Astana on ways to prevent sanctions against third countries – read Russia – from doing unintended damage to the Kazakh economy.
The “highly respected” Nazarbayev has done “a great, great job” as leader of the resource-rich Central Asian nation, Trump said earlier Tuesday as he welcomed the Kazakh president to the White House.
Proclaiming “a new era of relations” between Kazakhstan and the United States, Nazarbayev said his country is interesting in buying US aircraft, locomotives and farm products.
Kazakhstan is in the midst of an ambitious development program building on its natural resources and its strategic location.
Nazarbayev, 77, has led Kazakhstan since it became independent in 1991.