Rahmon-Votel meeting highlights Tajikistan's key role in Central Asia

By Negmatullo Mirsaidov

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of US Central Command, shakes hands with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (right) May 11 in Dushanbe. [File]

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of US Central Command, shakes hands with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (right) May 11 in Dushanbe. [File]

DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan and the United States are taking steps to further strengthen their relations and jointly address modern security threats and challenges.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of US Central Command, was in Dushanbe May 11 to confer with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Defence Minister Sherali Mirzo and other high-level security officials.

Rahmon and Votel discussed "further strengthening the defence of the Tajik-Afghan border, undertaking the next efforts toward jointly fighting threats and challenges of modern times, particularly terrorism, extremism, radicalism, drug trafficking and cyber-crimes", according to Rahmon's press office.

US, Tajikistan share common interests

Votel highlighted common interests of the United States and Tajikistan.

These interests include bolstering the security of Central Asian countries, protecting their sovereignty, fighting new threats and ensuring stability in Afghanistan, Votel told journalists at a news conference in Dushanbe.

"This year, we will be providing [Tajikistan] over $18 million [161 million TJS] worth of engineering, machinery, equipment, and construction materials that will directly contribute to strengthening the border," he said, adding that since 1992 the United States has provided more than $1.8 billion in programmes and humanitarian aid to Tajikistan.

Votel praised Tajik authorities for their work on border security and their commitment to regional stability, both of which are important for the development of Central Asia, according to a statement from the US Embassy in Dushanbe.

Votel also "thanked the Tajik government for hosting the recent [May 4] conference in Dushanbe on counter terrorism and preventing radicalisation and detailed US efforts to destroy terrorist strongholds in Afghanistan and throughout the world", said the statement.

Tajikistan needs peace in Afghanistan: expert

The US efforts aimed at establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan could open up broad prospects for regional co-operation in Central Asia, observers say.

Tajikistan, which has one of the longest borders with Afghanistan and ethnic commonality with many Afghan tribes, could play a key role in establishing peace in that country, said Saifullo Safarov, first deputy director of the Strategic Research Centre under the President of Tajikistan.

"Peace in Afghanistan may create the conditions for completing a multitude of projects in which our country is participating," he told Caravanserai. "We need Afghanistan for the transit of cargo, electricity and our raw materials to other countries. It is a route to seaports that can significantly expand our economic ties."

"Therefore, we must make all efforts toward the establishment of peace and stability in our neighbours as soon as possible," he said.

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