Ambassador Daniel Rosenblum:
Good afternoon and welcome to the US Embassy! I’m very glad to have a chance to meet today with representatives of the media, to talk about the visit to Tashkent earlier this week of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. I will also be pleased to answer other questions you may wish to ask me about the U.S. relationship with Uzbekistan and our activities in your country.
As you know, Secretary Pompeo was here from Sunday evening until Monday evening, about 24 hours in all. Uzbekistan was his last stop on a five-country trip. He managed to do quite a bit during his relatively short visit, including a roundtable with religious leaders, a meeting with Foreign Minister Kamilov, a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister, a meeting in the format “C5+1,” several bilateral meetings with foreign ministers from other Central Asian countries, and a meeting with President Mirziyoyev. He was even able to come here, to our Embassy, where our team had a chance to hear him speak and to ask him questions. A full day and a productive day.
During his visit, Secretary Pompeo praised the reform agenda being carried out under President Mirizyoyev’s leadership, pledged continuing U.S. support for the reforms, and commented on the strategic partnership between the two countries, which is broadening and deepening. In the bilateral meetings, he discussed ways the business climate could be further improved by strengthening rule of law, and noted that this should lead to increased private U.S. investment. He also commented on our growing security cooperation, and our shared objectives regarding Afghanistan. Uzbekistan, the Secretary said, deserves our thanks for the significant contribution it has made to the effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.
Finally, the Secretary commented on the progress Uzbekistan has made on human rights issues, which are an important part of our bilateral agenda. He mentioned expanding space for civil society, reducing the use of forced labor, loosening restrictions on the media, and progress on protecting freedom of conscience. In all these areas, he identified specific issues where further progress was necessary in order to fully meet international standards.
Of course we don’t share the specific details of private diplomatic conversations but I will just comment that I have rarely been in diplomatic meetings where the priorities of the two sides matched so closely.
With respect to the C5+1 meeting, you have probably seen the joint statement that was issued, and I am happy to answer questions about it. Right now I will just say that as someone who was involved in the very first C5+1 in 2015 and has attended several of them since, I have never seen the level of trust and willingness to cooperate in the region as high as it is now. And that is strongly connected with President Mirziyoyev’s “neighbors first” policy, which has led to the resolution of many long-standing tensions between Uzbekistan and its Central Asian neighbors.
Finally, let me mention that I have now been in Uzbekistan for about eight and a half months, and truly feel myself at home here. I have visited nine of the regions outside of Tashkent, and look forward to visiting the others over the next few months. I am still constantly impressed by the incredible hospitality and warmth of the Uzbek people, and by the rich cultural heritage and fascinating history of your nation.
With that, I am ready to answer your questions.