Question: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your name, your title, and your background?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: My name is Robert Blake. I’m the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. I’ve been doing this job about a year and a half now. Before that, I’ve been a career Foreign Service Officer at the State Department for almost 25 years now. I joined the State Department really to make a difference in the world, and I think that’s why all of us are very proud to serve in the State Department. I was born in Washington, but spent most of my life overseas because my dad also was a Foreign Service Officer.
Question: What was the purpose of your recent travel to Central Asia?
The purpose of our annual bilateral consultations with Uzbekistan and with the other Central Asian states is to broaden and deepen our cooperation with them. I think our talks with Uzbekistan were very successful in that regard. We had very detailed conversations about how we can work together more on things like Afghanistan, how we can expand cooperation on science and technology, how we can expand work on human rights inside Uzbekistan, and a huge number of other areas. So it was a very friendly, constructive conversation and I think bodes very well for our future relations.
Question: What were some of the highlights from your trip?
I had a private sector delegation come with me of some of our top American companies who are interested in doing more business in Uzbekistan. I think they had very good talks not only with members of the Uzbekistan government but also with the private sector there. So I think there are a number of good leads that they have as a result of those talks.
We already have some big countries like General Motors who are producing cars in Uzbekistan. It’s a very large market there. But big companies like Honeywell, for example, I think would like to do more in the energy field, which is an emerging sector.
Question: Do you have a message for the people of Central Asia?
Our policy has always been to promote the sovereignty and the independence of all of the countries of Central Asia, but also to help develop their security, their prosperity and their democracy.
We are engaged in now an intensive effort across the region to achieve those goals. I think our vision for Central Asia in the future is that this really can be once again kind of the Silk Road, it can be the crossroads in which the goods and services from Russia, from Europe, from other parts of the globe pass through and then go into the growing markets of South Asia, particularly India and Bangladesh, but also Pakistan, and can really help to stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan and really, again, make this region which is such an important region for the United States, a real region of opportunity and a real region where the young people who really constitute half of the population of this region can really look forward to a future of hope, of opportunity, and can have their aspirations realized.
I think the United States is uniquely placed to help to achieve that. So we’re very excited about those opportunities.