US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Astana on November 1-3, making Kazakhstan the third leg of his tour of Central Asia. Kerry met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Karim Massimov to discuss a set of wide-ranging issues, from regional economic cooperation to environmental protection to regional security.
According to a statement published on the US embassy website, the parties discussed issues related to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and fight against terrorism, extremism and the Islamic State. Kerry told Nazarbayev that “President Obama is very appreciative for your leadership on the non-proliferation issue, on countering violent extremism, cooperation vis-a-vis Afghanistan and counter-Daesh [Islamic State]”.
Ahead of Kerry's visit, US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol denied to bne IntelliNews that the timing of the visit was linked to Russia's military involvement in Syria and that the US sought to prevent Central Asian nations from supporting and cooperating with Moscow on this. "The visit was organised and decided some time ago, in fact long before this situation developed in Syria with the Russian Federation's actions there," Krol told a news conference in Almaty in late October answering bne IntelliNews's question.
Kerry’s visit to Kazakhstan is part of a wider tour of the region which is aimed at demonstrating that the US remains committed to Central Asia despite the end of its mission in Afghanistan in 2014. For Kazakhstan, the visit of Kerry is a confirmation that Astana is effectively conducting well-balanced foreign policy and despite being perceived as a Russian ally it is able to develop relations with other major powers.