2009 Programs and Events
Press Conference by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns
Burns: I am pleased to have the opportunity to visit Tashkent along with a delegation of senior officials of the United States Government representing the White House, the State Department and the Defense Department. Our visit is a reflection of President Obama’s commitment to strong, mutually beneficial relations between our two countries based on mutual respect and common interests. I’ve already had constructive discussions with the Foreign Minister and other senior Uzbek officials. I look forward very much to the opportunity to meet with President Karimov later this morning.
I would like once again to express our appreciation for the important contributions Uzbekistan is making to our common effort in Afghanistan, through its support for the Northern Distribution Network and through the important provision of electricity to Kabul and other Afghan cities. I look forward very much to discussing other ways in which we can work together. Uzbekistan obviously plays an important leadership role in this region. I look forward to listening to the President’s perspectives on how best to pursue our long term strategy in Afghanistan and throughout the region, and how we can work together in the future.
We have before us an opportunity to expand economic cooperation between our two countries, particularly in trade and investment. We look forward to continuing to work together on important issues like counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and border security.
I was also pleased during our visit to have the opportunity to meet with leaders of civil society. President Obama has made clear that in our pursuit of stronger relations with countries around the world, we focus not only on strengthening ties between the governments, but also on strengthening ties between our two societies. And issues like the development of civil society institutions and human rights remain priorities for the United States.
Once again, I believe our visit and our discussions are a positive step in our relations. I’m convinced that we have an opportunity before us in a new administration to strengthen ties between our two countries. And I look forward very much to working together to make practical progress in the months ahead. Thank you and I’d be glad to take one or two questions.
Atif Alla, Turkish Jihan Agency: Today is the signing of the Nabucco project in Ankara and what is your reaction to this event?
Burns: Today’s event in Ankara is an important step forward on the Nabucco project. It is in the interests of everyone in this region, and around the world, who benefit from diversification of transit routes. That is a healthy and sensible approach to energy issues in this area.
VOA Uzbekistan: They said that you’re going to meet with the President of Uzbekistan and that you will be talking about human rights and can you tell us specifically which issues concerning human rights you are going to talk about?
Burns: I said clearly in my remarks that human rights and the development of civil society institutions remain a priority for the United States. That’s true not only in our relationship with Uzbekistan but in our relationships around the world. We recognize that there’s been some progress in Uzbekistan on issues like human trafficking, an issue on which progress is very much in the interests of this country. It’s not a favor to anyone else. We look forward to a practical dialogue on all the issues in our relationship, and to practical progress based on our mutual interests.
Uzmetronom website: There is information that President Karimov is going to visit the United States. Is it true? Is there any change in US policy regarding to carry out independent and trustworthy investigation concerning Andijon events?
Burns: At this stage, all I would do is repeat the interest of the new American administration in strengthening our ties to Uzbekistan. And I think we do have a very real opportunity before us to do that. We see this visit as a first step in that direction.