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FRANKFURT: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will host the leaders of five Central Asian nations next week, Berlin said on Friday, in a bid to boost ties as Russia’s influence in the region wanes.

The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan will hold talks with Scholz in Berlin next Friday, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

It will be the first joint meeting of its kind with an EU country, the spokesman added.

“The talks are likely to cover a whole range of topics, such as bilateral relations, economic issues and energy policy cooperation,” he said.

The president of energy-rich Kazakhstan, Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, will hold a joint press conference with Scholz a day earlier, on Thursday.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted global powers like China and the European Union to seek a greater role in Central Asia at a time when many in the region are questioning their long-standing ties with Russia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted the five leaders for a key summit in May, while US President Joe Biden had his first meeting with the “C5” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

European Council President Charles Michel has twice visited the Central Asian region since the start of the Ukraine war last year.

Germany also has an interest in the energy-rich region as Berlin has also been seeking alternative sources of power after its supplies from Russia dried up.

Russia remains the main regional power and the countries of Central Asia have been criticised for helping Moscow circumvent Western sanctions, which they deny.

Rattled by the war in Ukraine, the five ex-Soviet countries have recently ramped up efforts to resolve conflicts and tighten regional alliances.

The region remains largely tightly controlled and unstable, with deadly clashes in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as suppressed uprisings in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in recent years.

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