U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs George Krol says U.S. policy concerning Uzbekistan and other nations in the region – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – has remained important and consistent since these nations gained their independence in the 1990s.
In an October 3rd interview with the Voice of America's TV Uzbek Service, Deputy Assistant Secretary Krol noted that the relationship with each Central Asian country is "based upon fundamental principles of mutual respect for their independence and for their sovereignty":
"We seek a partnership to be able to discuss a wide range of issues, and to develop a relationship that is involved in economic relations and trade relations, as well as, in a security relationship, as well as, in the relationship of how of our governments govern, and issues of human rights, and the growth of civil societies in each of these countries and each of these societies in Central Asia."
Deputy Assistant Secretary Krol said the U.S. relationship with Uzbekistan is broad-based as with other Central Asia countries. One of the issues discussed by the U.S. and Uzbekistan, he said, is human rights:
"We find there have been certain steps that the Uzbekistan government has taken in the area of human rights. They've allowed the International Red Cross to enter and to visit the prisons in Uzbekistan. They released some prisoners of concern like Mrs. [Mutabar] Tojiboyeva ... as well as they have passed orders to enforce legislation about child labor."
While such steps are welcome, they have not yet resulted in significant concrete improvements: prison conditions are poor, and independent observers reported seeing children working in the cotton fields in October.
Human rights in Uzbekistan were set back in late October when authorities there sentenced human rights activist Azam Turgunov independent journalist Salijon Abdurakhmonov both to 10 years in prison, in trials that drew criticism for their lack of due process. The U.S. calls on the government of Uzbekistan to release these and other detained political prisoners. Respecting human rights, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Krol "is in the interest of Uzbekistan itself."