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Security dominates EU talks in Central Asia ahead of Afghan drawdown as rights take back seat

Security issues have dominated talks between the European Union's top envoy and Central Asian diplomats as the looming withdrawal of international military coalition from Afghanistan raises the specter of regional instability.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday after a meeting with regional foreign ministers in Kyrgyzstan, host of a vital U.S. air base, that Europe's growing interest in Central Asia was based on a shared security challenges.

Ashton said she wanted to see deeper cooperation on energy and trade with Europe, but avoided addressing what advocacy groups say are worsening political freedoms in Central Asia.

After Kyrgyzstan, Ashton will visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

All these countries have expressed anxiety about the potential for spillover from unrest in Afghanistan after the planned U.S. drawdown in 2014.