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Boucher On Uzbekistan

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher visited Tashkent May 30th to June 1st. His statements there reflected a sense that the government of Uzbekistan and the government of the United States are searching for common ground to rebuild frayed relations.

The United States seeks to work with the people and the government of Uzbekistan on a range of issues, including security, economic development, and human rights, Mr. Boucher said. He met with President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, and other officials.

"It is no secret that we lost a lot of trust in the relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan in the last few years," he said. "I think both sides would like to rebuild it."

That can been done by working together on matters of interest to both the U.S. and Uzbekistan and the region. For example, "we have a common interest in stabilizing Afghanistan," he said. The U.S. diplomat said "the Taliban, in association with al-Qaida, in association with some of the radical groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, do represent a threat to people of the region." The extremists, he noted, are opposed to the wishes of the vast majority of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Central Asian region, who want jobs, education for their children, and participatory government.

The U.S. would also like to see Uzbekistan move forward on human rights. Some progress is being made, he said. "We recognize the passage of a law on habeas corpus [actually on protection from arbitrary detention]. We recognize the new discussions with the Red Cross and visits to prisons. We recognize the commitment to religious tolerance and moderation," said Mr. Boucher.

Progress on human rights should include further prisoner releases like that of Mutabar Tojiboyeva expanding the role of non-governmental organizations and more freedom of the press.

There is no contradiction between progress on security and progress on human rights: engagement can achieve progress on all fronts.