December 25, 2017 / 2:10 PM / a year ago

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan pledge to improve ties in wake of trade war

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbai Jeenbekov enter a hall during their meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan December 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

ALMATY (Reuters) - The leaders of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan pledged on Monday to improve relations, after ties between the two former Soviet republics degenerated into a trade war under the previous Kyrgyz leadership.

The standoff between Astana and the government of former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev strained a Russian-led economic bloc and disrupted supplies of Kyrgyz goods to some European countries.

“We have established a constructive and trust-based dialogue in all areas,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s office quoted him as telling his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Jeenbekov was elected president last month. In the run-up the vote, his predecessor and backer Atambayev accused the Kazakh government of interfering in Kyrgyz politics and supporting an opposition candidate.

Astana denied those charges but introduced tough border controls that nearly halted the flow of goods out of Kyrgyzstan, which is landlocked and sends most of its exports out through Kazakh territory.

Kyrgyzstan filed complaints both to the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, a post-Soviet bloc, and the World Trade Organization, accusing Kazakhstan of imposing a “blockade”.

Bishkek also briefly suspended operations at a copper and gold mine operated and run by Kazakhstan-based and London-listed Kaz Minerals.

But tensions started easing after Jeenbekov, a former prime minister, took office this month. Last week, Bishkek informed the WTO it had settled its dispute with Astana.

“Kyrgyzstan will continue to carry out its foreign policy aimed at deepening and intensifying bilateral ties with Kazakhstan,” Jeenbekov’s office quoted him as saying at the meeting in Astana.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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