Good afternoon and welcome to our Embassy. I’m glad you could all come today.
My name is Daniel Rosenblum, and I am very glad to be here in Tashkent as US Ambassador. It was a long wait to get here. In fact I was nominated almost exactly one year ago. But I finally came in late May, and now I have been here for almost seven weeks, which has given me some time to meet many people and learn more about the situation in your country. First, I got acquainted with my own embassy staff (which is the best in the world!); next, I started to meet some important officials in the government; and now I am beginning to meet people from the private sector and civil society. Today, I am meeting with members of a very important institution, the mass media – I hope to get to know you all better over the next few years.
Let me begin by saying that I feel very fortunate to be serving here at this particular time because there are so many important and positive changes happening in Uzbekistan. Also, bilateral relations between the US and Uzbekistan are the best I have ever seen, certainly the best since I started my intensive involvement in those relations in 2014. And diplomats with longer experience than me, like Foreign Minister Kamilov, who has been active in this relationship since the early 1990’s, say relations are the best they have been since independence.
I pay my respect to those who came before me, especially Ambassador Spratlen, for all they did to get us to this stage. And my goal is to broaden and deepen that bilateral relationship in as many areas as possible, which I believe will be a tremendous benefit to both countries.
The question is, how best to achieve that goal? I think we need to work in five directions. These are the five priority objectives I have established for my tenure as Ambassador. If any of you saw the statement I made at my confirmation hearing in Washington last August, or the speech I made at my swearing-in ceremony in May, these will sound familiar. If nothing else, I try to be consistent!
These are not listed in order of importance. I hope to pursue each of them simultaneously.
Objective 1: I want to deepen our security partnership with Uzbekistan. This means not only working together to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan, a strongly shared goal — but also cooperating to combat violent extremism, transnational crime, narcotics trafficking and other threats. We are doing many things together in this area, but I just want to mention that this week, Defense Minister Kurbanov will be visiting the U.S. and will meet with officials in Washington, including our Acting Defense Secretary Esper.
Objective 2: I want to provide as much support as possible for the economic, political and social reforms that the Uzbek government has begun. Your President has introduced very bold and far-reaching reforms in the past few years – we agree with him that these reforms are necessary and, if successfully implemented, will help the country develop in a very positive direction. We are only one of many countries and international organizations helping the reforms. At the same time, the United States has some useful experience and knowledge we can offer in certain sectors, for example in judicial-legal reform, health and education.
Objective 3: I want to continue focusing on the protection of basic human rights. We will speak out for freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, while supporting the development of a vibrant civil society. These values undergird our foreign policy around the world because these are basic rights upon which the United States was founded and to which we believe all people are entitled. We will acknowledge positive developments – for example, we have noted real progress on reducing forced labor and on rights for religious believers in the past couple of years – but will also offer constructive criticism where warranted. In this regard, I’m very glad that a large delegation from Uzbekistan will be attending the International Religious Freedom Ministerial meeting next week in Washington.
Objective 4: I want to build people to people ties between American citizens and Uzbek citizens. This means expanding educational, cultural, scientific and business exchanges in both directions. By doing so, we will be building a network of linkages between our two great nations that will ensure our relationship thrives for decades to come.
Objective 5: I want to help U.S companies take full advantage of opportunities to sell their products and services, and to make profitable investments in Uzbekistan. As Uzbekistan implements reforms that make it easier for all companies, both domestic and foreign, to do business, we should see more and more such opportunities.
I should note that there’s been quite a bit of recent activity on this fifth objective in the past few weeks. As you know, two weeks ago, a group of 13 US companies visited Uzbekistan on a trade mission. They had very productive meetings with local companies and with government officials, and practically all of them told me they saw good perspectives for doing more business here. And a week ago, I attended the opening ceremony for a expanded training center run here in Tashkent by the Honeywell Corporation. Honeywell has been here in Uzbekistan for twenty years and to me, they provide an excellent example of what American companies bring when they invest: they do not only bring money and jobs and cutting edge technology – that’s all good – but usually they ALSO bring training and education. American companies invest in human capital. That’s the best investment of all, because it will benefit Uzbekistan for many years to come.
There’s more I could say about each of these five objectives, but let me stop there and take your questions.