Nazarbayev, Putin and Lukashenko Discuss Economic Union Cooperation, Ukraine in Astana

ASTANA – Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus met in Astana on March 20 to discuss prospects for closer cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) as well as the situation in Ukraine.

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During the tri-party meeting in Akorda presidential residence, the President of Kazakhstan said that all three countries of the Eurasian Economic Union are facing serious economic challenges stemming from the fall in global oil prices this year.

“It is important to develop a joint action plan to overcome the recession in our economies. That’s the primary focus of today’s meeting. We have agreed to develop trade, economic and investment cooperation. We have already instructed our governments to take measures in order to renew growth in mutual trade,” Nazarbayev said at a joint press briefing in the Akorda following the talks.

Putin noted that they have discussed all aspects of their relationships.

“Our countries share close trade and investment ties. The overall GDP of the three countries is equal to 85 percent of the gross product of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). We constitute a large market with huge industrial and scientific potential. Russia is ranked first in the external trade listings of Belarus and Kazakhstan while Kazakhstan and Belarus rank third on the trade balance of the Russian Federation. Last year, Russian trade turnover with these two countries amounted to almost $60 billion,” Russia’s President said.

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He also noted the necessity for strengthening the relations of the three countries in industry and technology, as well as in the fields of machinery, space and energy.

“The time has come to start thinking about forming a currency union,” Putin also said at the briefing, providing no further details about such a proposal. There was no immediate reaction from either Nazarbayev or Lukashenko at the briefing, while earlier Kazakh officials had noted that discussions about such a union, under the current agreements, were meant to take place no earlier than 8-10 years later.

According to the Belarusian leader, every year brings new challenges. In his opinion, the EAEU was created at the right time.

“The union is not only a declaration of intents. We have passed a lot of documents and formalised the union by signing a number of agreements. We must respond to these challenges within the framework of our union,” Lukashenko said.

“We have agreed to increase cooperation in almost all areas. We have outlined specific steps to establish additional conditions for the development of trade and economic cooperation, taking into account new realities affecting both our economies and the entire world,” added the President of Belarus.

The heads of state exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine, which has had an impact on other countries. They have also touched on the upcoming70th anniversary of the Great Victory.

“It is clear that in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, we should stay together. There are too many challenges; there have been attempts to rewrite our common history. Therefore, in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, we should demonstrate political and economic unity,” the President of Belarus said.

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While in Astana, the three presidents also met Kazakh students.

Lukashenko also announced at the press briefing that the three presidents will next week in Moscow on May 8 prior to the May Victory Day parade.

At the end of the meeting, Nazarbayev emphasised the importance of active and regular meetings to compare positions and discuss the future of interstate cooperation.

In turn, the two presidents expressed their gratitude to Nursultan Nazarbayev for the invitation to Astana and the opportunity to discuss these specific issues.

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