Secretary of State Kerry visited Tajikistan on November 3. The Secretary received a warm reception, participating in a brief tea ceremony with Foreign Minister Aslov before moving to the Palace of Nations for his meeting with President Rahmon. Following the meeting with the President, Secretary Kerry made the following statement to local and international press.
Secretary Kerry: Thank you very much. This will be a very brief statement, but let me just say that I was extremely pleased to be able to meet with President Rahmon and to discuss a number of issues regarding our bilateral relationship. And I thanked him for hosting me here in Dushanbe and for sending Foreign Minister Aslov to Samarkand to take part in an important meeting of the five Central Asian countries. And we recognize that Tajikistan has the unique position of having – of being a Central Asian country with the longest border with Afghanistan and that that has presented some very real security challenges. And I emphasized the United States commitment to working with Tajikistan and with other countries in the region to strengthen the border security. And also, we discussed President Obama’s decision to leave additional troop levels in Afghanistan in order to contribute to regional stability.
In addition, we discussed three other things significantly. One, we discussed the economic challenge that Tajikistan faces right now as a result of the downturn in the economy of Russia as well as China, and we talked about ways in which we can cooperate to try to increase the connectivity between the five Central Asian countries, and indeed, beyond this region.
We also talked about the importance of energy policy, particularly electricity, the challenge of working with neighbors, particularly the challenge with Uzbekistan at this moment, and the ongoing need to have energy diversification and provide greater energy supply. We talked about the five-year prospect of Tajikistan being able to supply all of the energy of Afghanistan as well as its own people. So there are projects that can make a difference, and we pledged to work together to make certain that cooperation between the countries in the region – those that have water, those that don’t and need it for their agriculture – that that is critical.
And finally, we also talked about the great difficulties, the challenges involved in counterterrorism and fighting against violent extremism and doing it effectively but also in a way that balances human rights, religious freedom, the ability of people to be able to participate politically, and not to allow the battle against extremism to confuse the possibilities of developing the ability of people to participate in the governance and particularly to be able to worship freely.
So we – as you can see, we squeezed a lot into a short amount of time, and the president very graciously invited me to come back for a longer visit, which I would like to do, and in the meantime we agreed to continue working with our teams on all of these issues in order to try to build as constructively as we can out of the C5 – the meeting of the five countries in the region plus the United States – to see if we can find a new level of cooperation and specific projects that we might be able to work on to further our interests together.
So I thank Tajikistan. I thank the president, the foreign minister, for welcoming me today and I look forward to returning sometime soon. Thank you very much. Thank you.