ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. My name is Robert Blake, and I am the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. This is my first visit here to Dushanbe.
I just had the pleasure of meeting with His Excellency, The President. We had a very constructive and friendly meeting where I expressed my government’s strong appreciation for the good relations between our two governments. We discussed our cooperation on Afghanistan and some of the challenges that Tajikistan is now facing as a result of the world economic crisis. I described the assistance program that the United States has here in Tajikistan. We also talked a little bit about democracy, about religion. We had a very full and friendly discussion. I very much appreciate the President’s time and I’ll have a chance later to speak with some of you in more detail about our discussions. Thank you.
I can take one or two questions.
QUESTION: If the government of the United States is planning to cut assistance to Tajikistan in view of the world economic crisis?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: No, we are not planning to cut assistance. Tajikistan is one of the largest recipients of United States foreign assistance here in Central Asia. We are assisting Tajikistan on a wide range of fronts and we plan to continue to do so.
QUESTION: In view of the restoration of the Afghan economy is the United States government planning to expand economic cooperation with Tajikistan and Afghanistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Most of what we are doing with Tajikistan now involves counterterrorism and counternarcotics cooperation with respect to Afghanistan. As you know, we are planning a major new program in Afghanistan to expand agricultural production in Afghanistan both to provide new jobs and new livelihood to the people of Afghanistan and to encourage them to shift away from opium production.
One more question.
QUESTION: What is your view about Central Asia in general in view of some recent developments in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and the activity of Tajik security forces in Eastern Tajikistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to talk too much about other developments in Central Asia. The focus of our talks today was on bilateral relations between the United States and Tajikistan. Again, I expressed my appreciation for the very strong cooperation that we have with the government of Tajikistan on counterterrorism, on counternarcotics, border security with respect to Afghanistan, and we talked about a wide range of other issues. We didn’t really talk that much about other Central Asian countries.
Thank you very much.
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