QUESTION: [Through Interpreter]. Mr. Blake, we learned from media that alleged SWAT, Special Weapons and Tactics, of United States forces, they are starting their participation or involvement in some special operations within the countries of Central Asia. Have they already started? If yes, in what way are you seeing their participation? And in this line, does the United States of America wish Tajikistan agreed or signed an agreement at that point?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Good morning. It’s a great pleasure to be back here in Dushanbe. I just have had a very wide-ranging and productive meeting with the President. I briefed him on the excellent discussions that I had yesterday with Foreign Minister Zarifi as part of our annual bilateral consultations. I thanked the President for all of the help that Tajikistan is providing to stabilize Afghanistan. We discussed ways that the United States and Tajikistan can strengthen border security and counter-narcotics efforts.
I briefed the President on a very useful meeting that I had this morning with the American Chamber of Commerce here in Dushanbe. I told him that the companies here believe that there are important opportunities for investment in the minerals and energy and other sectors, but there also remain impediments to investments such as the burdensome tax code.
As always, we also discussed the very important human rights dimension and issues such as media freedom and religious freedom which are very important parts of any democratic society. We agreed that the United States and Tajikistan should continue our joint efforts to intensify cooperation between our two countries. I would be glad to take a few questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I have no information on any kind of Special Operations Forces that are operating in Central Asia.
QUESTION: Maybe I can specify. Some media have reported, they have said that United States Special Forces have right to participate in special operations, military operations, in the countries of Central Asia. Is it true? And is it true that in what condition can United States take such involvement? And if there was any agreement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: All I can say is that this was not a subject of discussion today with President Rahmon, and I’m not aware of any such plans as those.
I’ll be having a press conference later, so I’ll take one more question now.
QUESTION: [Through Interpreter]. As we see both parties, they are pleased and satisfied with the military/political cooperation of two countries. Please, would you be kind to tell us in prospect the opportunities of economic and investment cooperation of Tajik-United States interactions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: As I said, I had a good meeting this morning with the American Chamber of Commerce here that’s been operating for two years. It has a very active membership. They told me that there are quite good opportunities in the mineral sector, in the energy sector, and perhaps other sectors as well. But there are also some obstacles to investment. We agreed that we should try to work together and work with the Tajik government to reduce those obstacles and improve the investment climate here, and that if progress can be made on those issues, that we would be glad to try to facilitate visits by a Tajik delegation to the United States to meet with potential American investors.
As I said, I’ll be glad to take more questions later, but it’s a pleasure to see you all again. Thank you.
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