A Productive Week for U.S.-Uzbekistan Relations
Dec 19, 2022
On December 12, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister, Vladimir Norov met with U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in Washington D.C. Blinken emphasized to Norov, “The United States’ unwavering support for Uzbekistan’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty.” Also on the agenda was discussing U.S.-Uzbekistan bilateral ties in the midst of “a shifting geopolitical landscape in Central Asia,” as well as the importance of both countries’ supporting the people of Ukraine and Afghanistan throughout their ongoing crises.
Furthermore, Blinken encouraged Uzbekistan’s government to wholly implement the reforms to Uzbekistan’s Constitution that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had announced on June 21, 2021. Blinken urged Uzbekistan to place emphasis on implementing the reforms that would mean ensuring greater freedom of the press and civil society, mitigating gender-based violence, and conducting just and public trials for those arrested during the unrest in Karakalpakstan earlier this year.
Before their meeting, Norov remarked: “We appreciate the United States administration continued support for president of Uzbekistan reforms agenda, aimed at ensuring good governance; rule of law; human rights; as well as maintaining peace and advancing sustainable development in Central Asia.” He went on to express Uzbekistan’s eagerness to grow “bilateral relations in areas of trade and investment, science and technology, education, and human-capacity building.” Also before the meeting, Blinken stated: “I really want to applaud Uzbekistan for reaching a border demarcation agreement with Kyrgyzstan. I think this sends a powerful signal to many in the region, and beyond, about the importance of possibilities with diplomacy for resolving these issues.”
Following Norov’s meeting with Secretary Blinken, the second annual Strategic Partnership Dialogue between the United States and Uzbekistan took place in Washington on December 13. Headed by Norov and U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Donald Lu, this meeting sought to enhance bilateral cooperation, especially in the areas of security and economy. Toward security and governance, both sides expanded on the topics that were touched on during the meeting with Blinken. Special attention was paid to the security threat emanating from Afghanistan that borders Uzbekistan. To this end, both sides discussed working jointly to strengthen “border management and defense capabilities, as well as counternarcotics and counterterrorism.”
The “Economic Development” portion of the dialogue focused on fostering a good business climate so as to boost Uzbekistan’s economy as well as U.S.-Uzbekistan cooperation. To this end, both sides discussed ideas for collaborative initiatives in digital economy, transport, water resources, agriculture, and environmental conservation. They also planned for the 2023 meeting of the Council of the Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that will take place in Samarkand, by creating a U.S- Uzbekistan working group to “form an economic platform for TIFA.” Furthermore, the U.S. delegation lauded Uzbekistan’s role in strengthening regional connectivity through forging new trade routes and diversifying import-export markets. The U.S. side also commended Uzbekistan’s part in the Global Methane Pledge and its other endeavors toward fighting the climate crisis.
Finally, the “Human Dimension” portion of the meeting focused on upcoming reforms, as well as how to strengthen democratic practices, freedom of speech, and gender equality. Both sides agreed to increase bilateral cooperation in many areas such as science, education, health care, and environmental protection.
Norov’s meeting with Blinken, followed by the Strategic Partnership Dialogue between the United States and Uzbekistan with Lu, certainly served as a positive signal of strengthening U.S.-Uzbekistan bilateral ties. With Lu and Norov agreeing to reconvene the U.S.-Uzbekistan Strategic Partnership Dialogue in 2023, it is clear that both sides see the value in nurturing the relationship. The United States has demonstrated its vested interest in Central Asia this year through various high-level meetings, visits, and the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS). Hopefully, this increased attention will lead to greater bilateral ties, as well as a greater focus on building up national sovereignties in the region, especially as instability continues to fester through Russia’s war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Since the five Central Asian countries lie in the middle of these crises, they inevitably bear the brunt of the instability and its spillover effects. To mitigate these threats, it is a positive sign that the United States has shown its dedication to fostering relations and promoting greater regional connectivity.