22 April 2024

Cameron to raise Russia sanctions side-stepping on Central Asia visit

22 April 2024

Lord David Cameron is visiting Central Asia in a bid to boost British ties with the region amid concerns about trade sanctions on Russia being side-stepped in neighbouring countries.

On a five-day trip, the Foreign Secretary will travel to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia seeking to promote business and cultural links with the UK.

He will warn the region is “at the epicentre of some of the biggest challenges we face” as he announces a series of measures aimed at supporting its “hard-won sovereignty”.

The trip, which is the first by a British foreign secretary to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, comes as reports suggest luxury UK cars are still making their way to Moscow through former Soviet states.

Exports of high-end vehicles to Russia were banned by Britain after President Vladimir Putin waged war in Ukraine two years ago, but there are concerns over a sudden spike in sales to nearby countries.

It is believed that vehicles are then sent on to Moscow, with Sky News reporting a 1,860% increase in vehicles sold to Azerbaijan last year compared with five years preceding the invasion.

In talks with leaders from across the region, Lord Cameron will seek to “advance discussions on sanctions circumvention, human rights and reform”, the Foreign Office said.

He will double the amount of funding for Chevening Scholarships, which support people overseas studying in British universities, and announce £50 million over the next three years in development spending across the region.

A new scheme designed to promote the English language will also be announced, including online teaching resources with tailored local content available to teachers throughout Central Asia, the Foreign Office said.

During the visit, the Foreign Secretary will visit sites including a hydro-electric project in Tajikistan, which is heavily dependent on Russia for its economy, and a canal irrigation site in Kyrgyzstan.

Lord Cameron said: “We live in a contested, competitive world.

“If you want to protect and promote British interests you need to get out there and compete.

“Central Asia is at the epicentre of some of the biggest challenges we face and it’s vital for the UK and the region that we drive forward its future prosperity.”

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