Thank you Foreign Minister Meredov, other distinguished members of the Government of Turkmenistan delegation, Charge of the United States of America Sylvia Curran, ladies and gentlemen. Let me say on behalf of my delegation what an honor it is for all of us to be here to inaugurate these US-Turkmenistan Annual Bilateral Consultations and to thank Foreign Minister Meredov and the Turkmen delegation for your hospitality so far. I was last here in September of 2009 with Under Secretary Burns and am pleased to be back here in Ashgabat. I know that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was very pleased to meet with Foreign Minister Meredov last fall and looks forward to continued meetings with the Foreign Minister.
Mr. Minister, our delegation’s visit to Ashgabat is very significant. It represents a new beginning to the relationship between the United States and Turkmenistan. We believe that today marks a new chapter in initiating an important dialog on all aspects of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkmenistan, not only between our two governments, but between the Turkmen and American people.
As Mr. Minister said in his remarks, we decided together to start these consultations in an effort to move our relationship forward with Turkmenistan in a systematic, comprehensive way. With that in mind, my goal for this set of consultations is to develop an ambitious plan of work to advance our relationship on all fronts with clear objectives and specific deadlines for future cooperation assigned to action-oriented working groups. I very much hope that we can schedule a joint review in approximately six months time - possibly in Washington - to make sure that we remain on target with the implementation of our joint plan of work. This will include action items for both sides regarding nearly every issue we will discuss for the next few days, from military cooperation, to counter-narcotics to commercial partnerships to human rights. Progress in each of these areas will be mutually reinforcing and help to expand our partnership and widen our engagement.
We seek to pursue these issues of mutual interest and concern in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect. We welcome all of your ideas on ways that the United States can help to move our relationship forward. We very much value our relationship with Turkmenistan and want to build and broaden our partnership.
Mr. Minister, let me just reiterate one key message: the United States is committed to working with Turkmenistan in the development of strong, prosperous ties between our two countries and to developing Turkmenistan into an independent country that is founded on the rule of law. We hope to do this within the context of a constructive relationship based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust. The ABCs will be a positive step forward. As I think we’ve agreed to alternate capitals for these talks, I can look forward to hosting you and your delegation in Washington.
As we begin with this opening session today, we look forward to new chapters in our bilateral history, two days of productive talks between our governments, and an exciting day on Wednesday with the first-ever US business delegation to come here to Turkmenistan for opportunities of discussing energy and business cooperation.
But before we proceed, let me just briefly introduce some of the lead members of our interagency team:
Again, let me thank you so much for your warm hospitality and your professional competence. These will be forward-looking and special discussions for the two days come. Thank you.