Ambassador Herbst Interviewed By Mohiyat Newspaper (11/08/2002)
2002 Press Releases
Ambassador Herbst Interviewed By Mohiyat Newspaper
Ambassador Herbst was interviewed by journalist Tashpulat Rahmatullayev for the newspaper "Mohiyat." The article entitled "U.S. Ambassador: Uzbekistan Taking Steps Towards Open Society" was published on November 8, 2002. Ambassador Herbst said Uzbekistan was not yet an open society even though the country had "started taking steps towards an open society." He said the U.S. welcomes the Uzbek government's decision to abolish the monopoly over the Internet and media censorship. The following are excerpts from the article.
[Passage omitted: A strategic partnership has been established between the U.S. and Uzbekistan and the two countries have broad contacts in various fields]
Tashpulat Rahmatullayev: Respected Mr. Ambassador, what are the initial results and future potential of a strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and the U.S.?
Ambassador Herbst: I think an important result of that cooperation is the abolishment of the Taliban movement and the weakening of the Al-Qaeda organization. In the field of foreign policy the U.S. and Uzbekistan have common interests. Both countries want to see Central Asia free and prosperous. Uzbekistan and the U.S. are coming out against the spread of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. I think the two countries will continue working in this direction. I also think that local developments in Uzbekistan itself are reflected in regional processes. Together with our Uzbek friends we will further step up our work towards the successful implementation of economic reforms and protection of human rights.
Tashpulat Rahmatullayev: How would you assess Uzbekistan's place and role in Central Asia?
Ambassador Herbst: In the Central Asian region Uzbekistan plays a big and important role. Uzbekistan's position in establishing stability in the region is also great. Uzbekistan is the country with the largest population in the region and has its own strong army. Despite having strong neighbors Uzbekistan is trying to follow an independent policy.
Tashpulat Rahmatullayev: During my visit to the U.S. with a group of journalists as part of the International Visitors Program, I met Secretary of State Colin Powell. Then Mr. Powell said "Your country's democratic development is very important for us. That was the situation before September 11, and it will remain the same in the future."
"An Open Society Does Not Come Easy"
Ambassador Herbst: Today it is very important for you to develop an open society. Now your republic has started taking steps towards an open society. There are several examples of that. Young people are going to western countries to study. We are observing changes in the legal system. They are designed to strengthen the legal system, including the expansion of rights of defense lawyers and the restriction of rights of prosecutors. Also, the Uzbek government has abolished the monopoly on using the Internet and media censorship and these are measures to welcome. The registration of an independent human rights organization was an important development. I consider all these as steps leading Uzbekistan to an open society.
At the same time, I would like to note that these are only the first steps. At present I cannot yet call Uzbekistan an open society. Before the abolishment of censorship the media was unable to give the real essence of the news. The Uzbek media was similar to that of the former Soviets [Union]. Authoritative press units have started of late publishing praiseworthy articles.
Tashpulat Rahmatullayev: I would like to know your opinion on an issue close to that. What do you think about Western and Eastern forms of democracy?
Ambassador Herbst: I think Western democracy is that existing in the western part of the globe while Eastern democracy is that existing in the eastern part of the Earth. Democracy has features common for all parts of the world. They are first of all an opportunity to freely express one's own opinion -- an opportunity to freely express one's opinion even if it does not coincide with the government opinion -- to join political parties, freedom of faith and the restriction of detention of citizens under various pretexts are common features of democracy. Any state having these features can be called democratic. No matter where it is located, in the west or the east.
Tashpulat Rahmatullayev: What do you think of the idea of opening a U.S. consulate, for example, in Samarkand in order to ease work in Uzbekistan's central, western and eastern parts?
Ambassador Herbst: The amount of work of our embassy is increasing as our relations with Uzbekistan are expanding. During my two-year work in Tashkent the number of permanent workers of the U.S. embassy has increased by sixty percent. Their number will increase by another fifty percent in the next three years before our embassy moves to a new building. By doing so we will further increase our services to the republic's population.
After the opening of the new embassy building we will assess the amount of work. Only after that will we consider the idea of opening a consulate in Uzbekistan's other areas, including in a prestigious town like Samarkand.
[Passage to the end omitted: the U.S. Ambassador says Uzbeks are hospitable and congratulates them on Ramadan, wishing them peace and prosperity]
Source: Mohiyat, Tashkent, in Uzbek, 8 Nov 02