QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, this is your first visit to Kazakhstan. Welcome.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great. It’s great to be here.
QUESTION: You met with your counterpart, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi, and then you’re going to meet Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as well as the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. What do you see as the biggest outcomes of these meetings and the visit?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be here, and thanks for having me on. An important relationship between the United States and Kazakhstan – so many good things happening between our countries. On the security front, we’re close partners. The Kazakhstanis lead here – right here in the heart, the crossroads between Europe and Asia, do such good things, and then there’s enormous economic opportunity between our two countries. We’re delivering on that not only here with energy, but in agriculture, in IT, digital transformation – all good things that are happening between our two peoples that will create jobs and opportunity right here in Kazakhstan. It’s a very exciting time.
QUESTION: I’m glad to hear that. Well, it’s actually also – all the things that are happening – happening between the United States and Kazakhstan, like the 10-year nonimmigrant visas, like the signing of the air transport agreement that has allowed and established in modern air aviation, civil aviation partnership between the two countries, these are all signals to a mature partnership between the two countries. How important is Kazakhstan in the U.S. strategy, larger strategy in regard to Eurasia?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think you got it right: These are important signals. These are the kinds of great things that happen when you have good leadership who’s ready to transform and do the right things to take care of their own people. You talked about a handful of them: the open skies agreement and some of the economic – just signed a deal with Tyson Foods to help with agriculture here, create lots of jobs for people, good jobs. I – so I was driving around today. I saw this beautiful place, this beautiful town. All kinds of good things are happening.
Kazakhstan is important to the United States. It’s a leader of the C5 nations. We’ll be down in Tashkent tomorrow to have a meeting of the group, and I know that the Kazakhstanis will be real leaders in developing good things not only for the people here, but for people throughout the region as well.
QUESTION: You just mentioned the investments, the United States investments in Kazakhstan, and the United States is one of the largest foreign direct investor incomes with massive amounts of investment in oil and gas. Now we see a more diverse range of interests among the American investments in the Kazakh market. Is it so?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s absolutely true, and it’s important because what you’ll see is – and I think the – I think people here know this: When American companies show up, we’re good neighbors. We come, we hire people from the local towns and villages and cities, we don’t pollute, we care about the environment, we treat people the right way. It’s just how American companies operate. It’s in our nature. It’s in our DNA. It’s a good thing. It’s – there are other countries when they come and make investments, don’t behave that way; they behave in ways that, frankly, isn’t very good for the local population. That’s not who we are as Americans, and this partnership, these economic opportunities are fantastic – fantastic certainly for the companies that come here because they want to come here and grow and thrive their business, but for the local people here as well.
QUESTION: Now, the U.S. President Donald Trump has welcomed the change of leadership in Kazakhstan last year. How has the relationship evolved since then, since the change of the government?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s been a continuation of good things that have been going on for a couple, three years now. I’m looking forward to meeting both of the presidents today. We’ll get a chance to talk about a wide range of issues, certainly issues between our two countries, but issues around the region as well. We know that there are security issues here. We’re prepared to help in every way we can with them. A good example is what’s going on with the coronavirus. The United States is here helping Kazakhstan deal with this problem. You’ve got a long border with China which is where this disease has emanated from. And we’ve got our people from the Center for Disease Control right here on the ground, helping Kazakhstan deal with this so that you don’t have an enormous outbreak.
We’re here, we’re ready with equipment and expertise to help you and your country deal with it. This is what good friends and good partners do for each other.
QUESTION: While the economic relations between the – between Kazakhstan and the United States are thriving, Kazakhstan also seeks warm relations with its neighbors, large trade partners like Russia. Both Kazakhstan and Russia are part of the Eurasian Economic Union, and of course the – Kazakhstan’s economy feels the shockwaves of the Western sanctions on Russia. What do you think would be the type of cooperation, economic cooperation with Kazakhstan that could allow Kazakhstan to thrive economically amid the strained U.S.-Russia relations?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we have done our best on both fronts there. We’ve done our best to make sure that Kazakhstan wasn’t impacted by those sanctions by granting opportunities and licenses and the kind of things that permit Kazakhstan to still be successful in spite of those sanctions. And then second, we’ve tried to find ways to work with Russia. But you know this: In this neighborhood, the Russians committed acts of aggression against Crimea and southeast Ukraine. These are the kind of things that I know Kazakhstan doesn’t want Russia to be rewarded for. And so the United States will continue to do that. We want good security partners throughout this region. I came from Ukraine to Belarus and now here. These are the kinds of things that America can do to help each of those countries be successful, to create independent, strong, sovereign countries. It’s what we want for Kazakhstan; it’s what we want for every country in this region.
QUESTION: Speaking of security, you will be attending the C5+1 meeting that you just mentioned in Tashkent, and one of the reasons why this platform exists is for the countries to cooperate in ensuring security in Central Asia, which is often challenged by the Afghan conflict. Now, the United States is – has launched the talks with the Taliban and announced the drawdown of their military troops in Afghanistan. How effective are these measures given that the Taliban now occupies nearly half of the country’s territory?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So America’s eyes are wide open with the challenges of an unstable Afghanistan. We’re continuing to try to work to reduce violence there. Frankly, we’re very appreciative of what Kazakhstan has done to help us with that. They have been great partners of ours in fighting terror not only in Afghanistan but in other places around the world as well. We’re counting on the people of Kazakhstan to continue to do that.
We’ll manage this process right. America is doing its level best to ensure that we get peace and reconciliation so as we withdraw our footprint there, as we reduce the number of U.S. forces and, frankly, forces from other countries that are in Afghanistan, we do so in a way that doesn’t increase – increase risk substantially to this region.
QUESTION: Mr. Pompeo, the U.S. Government has just expanded its travel ban list, and Kyrgyzstan was included. What do you think that signals to the other countries and other governments in Central Asia on why it happened?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, when we consider who is permitted to travel to the United States, it’s really very straightforward. It’s about our sets of rules and laws. We want to make sure, just like Kazakhstan does, that we know who’s coming in and out of our country. And so with respect to the changes that were made there, we’ve been working with that country to fix some of the challenges we have – passport issues, visa issues, visa overstays – things that are simple requirements for people to come and visit and travel in our country. We’re getting the policy right. When the country fixes those things, we’ll get them right back in where they can come travel to America. We welcome people to come and visit and be part of our country.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: Thank you.