ASTANA (TCA) — The Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan has rejected a Russian proposal to revisit the Central Asian country’s visa-free regime for U.S. citizens, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on March 15 that the existing agreement which allows Americans to travel to the Central Asian country without a visa should be “coordinated” with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Both Russia and Kazakhstan are EEU members, along with Armenia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Anuar Zhainaqov said on March 16 that the EEU “is not a political alliance but a group created to tackle economic issues only.”
“Introducing or abolishing visa requirements for foreign citizens is the right of any sovereign country…. When they outlined the agreement on the creation of the EEU, member states…agreed that issues related to national sovereignty be excluded from the group’s competence,” Zhainaqov said.
Kazakhstan in 2014 introduced a measure allowing for a visa-free stay for up to 15 days for citizens of the United States, Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Japan.
The visa-free stay was later extended to up to 30 days and the list of countries was increased to 45.
Another EEU member state, Kyrgyzstan, in 2012 abolished visas for citizens of a majority of Western countries, including the United States, allowing them to stay in the country for up to 60 days without visas.
Belarus also abolished visas last year for short-term visitors from some 80 countries, including the United States and European Union member states.