PARIS - The Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, arrived Sunday in Kazakhstan, for a visit during which he must in particular be meeting with the Kazakh authorities, the withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan, has was learned from an adviser to the minister.
When he arrived early Sunday afternoon in Pavlodar, northeast of the country, Mr. Le Drian had a first meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov, it was clear from the same source. He will meet Monday Kazakh Minister of Defense Adilbek Djaksibekov in the capital Astana.
The talks must include details of the move by Kazakhstan of the French troops withdraw from Afghanistan and their equipment, it was stressed. The Civil-Military Cooperation between Paris and Astana is also on the agenda of the visit, the duration was not specified.
Discussions are currently underway, at bilateral and NATO, with the countries bordering Afghanistan to allow passage of the convoys of the multinational force (ISAF) who are withdrawing from that country.
On June 4, including the Atlantic Alliance has announced the signing of an agreement with three Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - to repatriate the material during removal operations.
Two thousand French soldiers, a total of about 3,500 still in Afghanistan, must be parties in the country by the end of the year. A thousand more will leave in 2013 and materials will follow.
The French withdrawal being done primarily through mixed by air to Abu Dhabi (UAE), then by sea to France.
The other two possible routes are overland from the north through the Central Asian republics and Russia, less expensive, and the way south through Pakistan, also under discussion.