Blinken has completed a tour of Central Asia ahead of the G20 talks in India

Blinken has completed a tour of Central Asia ahead of the G20 talks in India

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is wrapping up a brief Central Asian tour in Uzbekistan before heading to India for what is expected to be a contentious Ukraine-led meeting of Group of 20 foreign ministers.

Blinken met with senior Uzbek officials in Tashkent on Wednesday, a day after his counterparts from five Central Asian nations warned of the dangers posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ahead of talks with Uzbekistan’s acting foreign minister, Blinken said he believed the United States and Central Asia had concerns about Ukraine, though former Soviet states had walked a fine line in condemning Russia for the war.

“I think there was a tremendous sense of both common challenges and common objectives among the C5+1 countries,” Blinken said of Tuesday’s meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana among the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan. and Uzbekistan.

In that discussion, Blinken repeatedly cited U.S. support for the five countries’ “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” in a subtle warning to the former Soviet republics that Russia’s value as a partner has been badly compromised by its years-old war against Ukraine, another Former Soviet states.

Acting Uzbek Foreign Minister Bakhtiar Saidov thanked Blinken for US support for his country and its neighbors. “I want to underline that we share common priorities for a prosperous, stable and peaceful Central Asia,” he said.

None of the five Central Asian countries traditionally seen as part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence has publicly supported Russia’s offensive. Yet none of them condemned it, and they all offered to do so again last week when they abstained from a vote in the UN General Assembly on the war’s first anniversary.

Blinken later visited Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev before departing for New Delhi, where he will attend a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from the 20 largest industrialized and developing countries, including China and Russia.

The G-20 talks come amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia and between the US and China over Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. All three countries are vying hard to outdo each other in terms of influence, especially in venues like the G-20.

The U.S. and its Western allies at the G-20 will press the group to take a firmer stance on the war, while Russia and China are likely to push for broad approval of a Chinese peace proposal for Ukraine that Beijing unveiled last week. That plan has been largely dismissed by the West.

A meeting of G-20 finance ministers in India last week ended without consensus on Ukraine.

The last time the group’s foreign ministers met — in Bali, Indonesia, in 2022 — Blinken held wide-ranging talks with then-Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, leading to a November summit in Bali between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Wang, who has been promoted, met with Blinken last month on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the first high-level talks since the US shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon and Blinken canceled a much-anticipated visit to Beijing. .

Those talks ended with no sign of progress in improving relations, further strained by US allegations that China is considering lethal military supplies with Russia for use in Ukraine and renewed suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic could be the result. A Chinese lab leak.

Blinken said in Astana on Tuesday that the Biden administration “will not hesitate” to impose sanctions on Chinese companies supporting Russia’s war effort.

“China cannot have it both ways when it comes to Russian aggression in Ukraine. It cannot be a peace proposal on the one hand while in fact with the other hand Russia has started the flames,” he said.

US officials have been tight-lipped about the possibility of Blinken sitting down with China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang or Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New Delhi. They are just saying that there is no plan for such talks. But all the three will be present in the Indian capital.

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