June 23, 2024

US President Joe Biden stressed the “territorial integrity” of Central Asia on Wednesday after meeting regional leaders, adding that he may soon visit one of the nations in what Moscow views as its backyard.

“This is a historic moment,” Biden told the leaders of the so-called “C5” — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — after their first meeting together on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“I look forward to seeing you soon, possibly in one of your countries.”

In an apparent swipe at Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, Biden said the former Soviet republics and the United States had a “shared commitment to sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity.”

“These principles matter more than ever, in my view.”

He added: “I genuinely believe the world is safer when we stand together.”

In an earlier UN speech, Biden warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could undermine the global body’s principles of national sovereignty, and embolden further land grabs.

Putin did not travel to New York to attend the annual summit.

The Ukraine war has prompted global powers like the United States to seek a greater role in Central Asia at a time when many in the region are questioning their long-standing ties with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky had earlier accused Russia of “obviously threatening Kazakhstan” in a speech to the UN General Assembly in which he urged the world to stand firm against Russia.

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