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Nazarbaev Thanks Trump For Backing Kazakh Territorial Integrity

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on January 16, 2018

WASHINGTON -- Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for Washington’s support of his country’s territorial integrity, as the two leaders met for talks expected to focus on regional security, economic issues, and bilateral relations.

In brief comments to reporters on January 16 before a scheduled luncheon, Nazarbaev also congratulated Trump on his first year in office.

"Kazakhstan appreciates America's support for our independence and territorial integrity," he said, speaking through a translator.

Nazarbaev did not elaborate on the remarks, but the Central Asian nation has been uneasy about Russia’s policies toward former Soviet states like Kazakhstan ever since Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and stoked an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Predominantly populated by ethnic Kazakhs, Kazakhstan has a sizable ethnic Russian population, estimated at around 20 percent, much of it concentrated in northern parts of Kazakhstan along its winding border with Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House said the two were expected to discuss the deteriorating security situation in nearby Afghanistan.

Russia, Syria Talks

The Kazakh state news agency Kazinform said Trump and Nazarbaev would also be discussing relations with Russia and the war in Syria, along with trade issues.

"From a political perspective, we cooperate on solutions and promotion of regional and global security. The meeting will focus on the situation in Afghanistan, the Syrian conflict, and relations with Russia," Sanat Kushkumbaev, deputy director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the president, was quoted as saying.

Kazakhstan is also currently holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council.

On January 14, Kazakh Ambassador Kairat Umarov headed a UN delegation that met in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

That delegation also included the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and diplomats from China, Russia, and Britain.

Nazarbaev's press service said he would attend a meeting of the UN Security Council on January 18 to preside over talks focusing on nuclear nonproliferation.

After a January 9 meeting with U.S. Ambassador George Krol in Astana, the Kazakh president said he was seeking to build on the "amicable relationship" that Kazakhstan and the United States have established in the past 26 years.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, TASS, and Interfax