BISHKEK -- The United States remains committed to upholding the sovereignty and independence of Central Asian states, a top US diplomat said January 12.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells, speaking from Brussels, answered questions from Kyrgyz and Kazakhstani journalists during a telephone briefing that day.
"With the countries of Central Asia we have ... mutual strategic interests in promoting economic integration, in countering narcotics, countering terrorism, enhancing the stability of the region, and we have long believed that the future for Afghanistan is to be knit back into the region and to be a strong partner with the Central Asian countries," said Wells, according to a US State Department transcript.
The United States "respects" and "supports" the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all Central Asian countries, she said, adding that the current administration endorses and embraces C5+1, a forum for US-Central Asian co-operation that the previous administration initiated.
"We've also received congressional support for this initiative with $15 million allocated for projects to reinforce this forum," she said.
US supports developing relations in the region
Wells spoke of Washington's ties with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
"We're very pleased, certainly, with Uzbekistan's renewed interest in building stronger relations in the region," she said.
"We're very pleased to see the countries of Central Asia naturally come together, given the range of interests that unite them, whether it's energy co-operation, trade or security ... and we look forward to seeing how events develop and further co-operation with Central Asia," she said.
The United States supports freedom of the press in Central Asia, she said.
"Historically the Kyrgyz Republic has long been a leader in press freedoms in Central Asia ... So we continue to encourage this essential institution, media, both to bring transparency as well as to assist governments as they formulate policies," she said.
The upcoming visit of Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the US was a major topic of the briefing. Kazakhstan plays a key role in the national security of the Central Asian region, she said.
"Kazakhstan has achieved a global leadership role," she said, pointing to the country's support for nuclear non-proliferation, regional security and Afghanistan.
"Kazakhstan's foreign policy and its significance on the world stage is multi-dimensional, with economics just being one but not the only foundation," she said.
Wells also mentioned America's business interests in Central Asia.
"American businesses have been among the world's biggest investors in Central Asia," she said, adding that over the past 26 years, in Kyrgyzstan alone, the US government has invested about $2 billion.
"We continue to encourage improvements in the business environment so that more foreign direct investment can be attracted," she said of oil-rich Kazakhstan, where US firms have invested more than $25 billion.
The US government's support of independence and freedom of the press in Central Asia stands in contrast to Russia, which violates other nations' sovereignty by intimidating its neighbours and interfering in their domestic affairs.
Russia is "determined to make economies less free and less fair ... and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence", according to the US government's National Security Strategy released last month.
In neighbouring countries, Moscow is actively "using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies [by targeting] media, political processes, financial networks and personal data", the report said.