Uzbekistan’s president makes ‘historic’ visit to US

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoev declared that progress made so far on improving human rights in his country is “irreversible” at the conclusion of a White House meeting with US President Donald Trump on May 16, RFE/RL reported.

Mirziyoev called his meeting with Trump “historic,” and hailed a “new era of a strategic partnership” between the two countries.

“We have been able to sign contracts and agreements with the leading U.S. companies worth $5 billion,” he said, without providing details.

In a statement issued late on May 16, the White House said that Trump “recognized Uzbekistan’s tremendous progress on important political, economic, and social reforms” since Mirziyoev took over the country’s presidency after the death in 2016 of its iron-fisted longtime ruler Islam Karimov.

“President Trump applauded President Mirziyoev’s ambitious reform program to improve the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, noting the release of prisoners of conscience, elimination of systematic child labor, and significant progress in reducing forced labor,” the White House said.

“These accomplishments have created the conditions for increased economic, political, and security cooperation” with the United States, it said, adding that Mirziyoev during his first official visit to Washington “committed to implement a comprehensive roadmap to advance religious freedom” in the country.

Mirziyoev said the progress on human rights and freedoms will continue under his policy of putting “the Uzbek people’s interest first” and under his five-year action plan to “promote good governance, judicial reform and rule of law, economic liberalization, social development, and an open and constructive foreign policy,” according to the White House statement.

The two leaders also recommitted to working together to fight terrorism and promote peace, stability, and economic development in Afghanistan. Mirziyoev said he offered his “full support” for Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan.

On economic issues, Mirziyoev announced that Uzbekistan is seeking to join the World Trade Organization, and Trump said the United States would provide the Central Asian nations with technical assistance as it continues efforts to liberalize its trade and economic policies to bring them in line with WTO standards.

Mirziyoev, 60, has sought to open up Central Asia’s most populous country and move away from Karimov’s oppressive policies, making changes as part of a bid to attract foreign investment and improve Uzbekistan’s stagnant economy.

For Trump, the talks were a chance to shore up relations with a strategically located country that is courted by China and Russia and was once a key staging area for U.S. operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

Sergey Kwan

TCA