SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, and I appreciate all of the great work that the chargé and all of you have done in order to prepare this visit. It has been a very important trip for me. I started this morning in Kazakhstan, went to Kyrgyzstan, here I am in Uzbekistan, and I will end the night in Bahrain. So this is a four-country day.
But this is one of the most important visits that I could make anywhere because I want to thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of the relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan. I want to thank you for, sometimes against great odds, promoting democracy and human rights, working to improve the lives of the people of Uzbekistan. I was delighted to sign an agreement on science and technology in order to try to find other ways to connect with and promote positive cooperation between our two countries. And you will have an ambassador soon; we’re waiting for confirmation of Ambassador Designate Krol. Things move a little slowly sometimes in Washington after elections, but we are pushing hard.
I also, in addition to thanking the chargé, want to thank Nicholas Berliner – where is Nicholas? Is Nicholas here? Thank you, Nicholas, for the extra hours that you worked. I know that our mission in Uzbekistan is in excellent and experienced hands. And I really want to thank each and every one of you, Americans and Uzbeks alike. You’re helping to advance our cooperation in so many areas. We’re stepping up our political exchanges. We’re revitalizing the annual bilateral consultation. You helped to set up the Northern Distribution Network that supplies our troops in Afghanistan and so much more.
This relationship is crucial. But it is also in a region that where just 20 short years ago – and that is really the way to think about it, because it puts into perspective that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it still is very difficult to work to support democratic institutions, civil society, human rights to promote freedom and opportunity for all people. I just had a few minutes with some of the local Uzbek NGOs and activists who depend on you for support of their work. These are brave people. I met a woman who I spoke with in 1999 in Istanbul at a conference against human trafficking, and her work still continues.
So the same power, the persistence, and particularly the support of the United States is critical. I also want to recognize the local staff and long-term employees. You have been absolutely critical members of this mission for years, and I know that you sometimes face challenges working for the United States. I’m aware of that, but I appreciate it because you are truly on the front lines not only in strengthening and deepening our relationship, but also working to find ways to improve individual lives as well as the entire population.
We are grateful for your dedication and your professionalism, not just in Tashkent, but I know that a number of you have served in Iraq. You are a sought-after commodity and we are grateful to you. I’m especially proud of the way that you all came together over the summer when violence broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan and refugees flooded over the border.
I had a very long talk at that time with President Karimov, and he referenced it in our meeting today, because I stressed the importance of Uzbekistan supporting those refugees during that time of violence and conflict, and I said at the time that our embassy and our government would support the government of Uzbekistan doing that. And you did. You donated and distributed money, clothing, medicine, and supplies. You provided comfort and care and you underlined our commitment.
You are the first post to adopt our smart messaging system, to harness social media tools such as web chats to push out our public diplomacy. The embassy’s Facebook page is doing a wonderful job of responding to people who comment and also correcting misconceptions about American policy. I understand it helps to convene people face to face in the Chai Chat Club, wherever that is -- (laughter) – and ping-pong parties, which I would love to participate in sometime. So thank you and thank you for what you’ve done to make this visit a success from our part in raising a lot of very challenging but important issues with the government, supporting civil society, and signing the Science and Technology Agreement.
Now, I want to shake as many hands as I can on the way out, and I particularly appreciate your bringing your children because much of what we do – certainly how I see my job in the State Department as your Secretary of State – is what we can do to make life better for the next generation. How do we give people the commitment that they can count on to improve their own lives, seek out their own opportunities, and make life better not just for their families, but for the larger society. So thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)