U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza says the U.S. has several goals in Central Asia: economic and energy cooperation, security cooperation, and "advancing democratic and market reforms to expand the scope of freedom." Pursuing those goals in Uzbekistan has been difficult, he says, because of the actions of the Uzbek government:
"In Uzbekistan. . . .we haven't been doing a whole lot on energy or regional economic cooperation and part of that was a decision by the government of Uzbekistan to pursue a more autarkic [self-sufficient] than cooperative economic policy for the region."
Mr. Bryza says security cooperation with the U.S. remains in the interest of Uzbekistan and the Central Asian region:
"We no longer have access to the [military] base at Karshi Khanabad but still we look at Uzbekistan as a significant potential partner in the war on terror. We have important overlapping interests on counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism."
"The U.S.," says Secretary Bryza, is "trying to sustain some level of cooperation within the constraints of our concerns about democracy and human rights." An improvement in relations, he says, depends on the Uzbek government:
"The decision is that of President [Islam] Karimov. We firmly believe that in Uzbekistan, as in any country. . .stability, which is necessary for security, only can come only with political legitimacy. And political legitimacy. . . can only come through democracy. . . .We not trying to exert leverage or force anyone to do anything. We are trying to make the point to President Karimov that a long-term, stable Uzbekistan requires political freedom, requires democratic advances."
Uzbekistan's authoritarian government recently ordered Freedom House, an independent human rights organization, to suspend its activities for six months. "There has been a dramatic increase in government harassment of civil society across Central Asia, but President Karimov has taken particularly drastic measures against local and international non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan," said Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza says the crackdown "is unwise" because the Uzbek government "is moving against cooperation in democracy and human rights."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.