Remarks With Uzbek President Islam Karimov Before Their Meeting

SECRETARY KERRY: Excuse me. Well, Mr. President, thank you. Thank you very much for your very generous welcome here to Uzbekistan and to Samarkand. It’s a great privilege for me to be here, and it is a magnificent city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So I already wish I had more time to be able to spend here. And as the world knows, Samarkand has long been a center of world events from the time of Alexander the Great and Tamerlane. It has served as a crossroads of civilization and a place of learning, a place of culture, and a melting pot of many different ethnicities and cultures.

We appreciate very, very much what you and your government have done to preserve that history and culture, and some of the architecture that you have been able to preserve. You’ve created something that is in such a stark contrast to what Daesh/ISIL is doing in the world today, particularly when you look at Palmyra and what they have done to cultural sites. So we come here with a special respect for your appreciation for this history.

And Mr. President, I want to thank you especially for hosting today the first-ever meeting of the C5+1, the Central Asian five countries plus the United States. And as you said, there are some very important issues for us to be discussing today. I think there are four principal areas we should spend our time on, and before the press leaves, I’d just mention them very quickly: economic development and connectivity, and the enormous energy resources, and the challenges that these five Central Asian countries have with respect to being landlocked and the need to be able to move products to the global marketplace. We should talk about that.

We need to talk about the environment and the challenge that the climate faces now in all the countries in the region, with the mountains, the glaciers; the impacts of global climate change are profound, and that is a important point of discussion. We need to talk about the human dimension, the issues regarding individuals and their participation in society and in defining the future of the country, and their opportunities with respect to education and other issues. And then, of course, finally, Mr. President, we need to talk about the great challenge that all of us face today regarding security. We know that your concerns about Afghanistan are concerns that we share – the stability of Afghanistan, the willingness of all of the allies to stay the course and to help fight for that security; as well as the challenge of radical religious extremism and the challenge that every country is facing with Daesh, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, different terrorist entities that are challenging states in this part of the world.

And I think if we can cover those issues and make progress and come up with a roadmap for our cooperation together, this will have been a very successful meeting together with you, as well as with the five foreign ministers from Central Asian countries.

So the bottom line, Mr. President, is our meeting today is a really good opportunity to advance our shared interests, and I’m very grateful to you, again, for your willingness to host the C5+1 talks. It’s a very important step. Thank you.