C5+1 meeting in New York highlights 'new atmosphere of partnership'

By Aydar Ashimov

Foreign ministers of Central Asia and US Under Secretary of State David Hale pose for a picture at a C5+1 ministerial meeting in Nur-Sultan on August 21. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

Foreign ministers of Central Asia and US Under Secretary of State David Hale pose for a picture at a C5+1 ministerial meeting in Nur-Sultan on August 21. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

NUR-SULTAN -- Officials from the United States and five Central Asian nations met on the sidelines of the latest United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York to discuss co-operation.

The September 22 meeting took place under the C5+1 format, which saw its first dialogue in September 2015.

"The C5+1 is a platform that brings together the five states of Central Asia and the United States to discuss and work on issues of common concern," according to the US State Department.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the Turkmen ambassador to the United States attended this year's talks.

Officials take part in the C5+1 ministerial meeting in New York on September 22. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

Officials take part in the C5+1 ministerial meeting in New York on September 22. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

The parties discussed ways to expand trade and investment ties, as well as integration processes and joint efforts to address challenges in Central Asia, said the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

The C5+1 platform is an efficient way to boost economic co-operation within Central Asia and attract US resources to develop the region's transport infrastructure, protect the environment and strengthen regional security and stability, emphasised Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi.

"We must absolutely work together on counter-terrorism, especially on the difficult but critical task of returning, prosecuting, and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters and their families," said Pompeo, according to a US State Department statement.

He also drew attention to the need to strengthen co-operation between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.

The meeting came after Central Asian foreign ministers and US Under Secretary of State David Hale met August 21 in Nur Sultan to discuss trade, multilateral economic projects in the region and the infrastructure and the transit and transport capacity of Central Asia.

Points of contact

"The participants note the new atmosphere of partnership, reaffirm the value of the format, and agree to strengthen co-operation, regional stability and sustainable development through regular dialogue and joint action," said a joint statement on September 24.

The statement highlighted "abiding respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each country, as well as for a strong, independent, prosperous, and stable Central Asian region."

Each side agreed to strengthen the C5+1 diplomatic platform, develop trade and economic ties, enhance the export potential of Central Asia, deepen co-operation in countering terrorism and violent extremism, support a peaceful settlement of the Afghan war and to take part in joint activities in other areas.

The statement outlines "our countries' main points of contact, which are economic co-operation, security and the development of civil society", said Yernar Beisaliyev, a political scientist from Nur-Sultan.

"The joint statement of the... C5+1 regional partnership, which is a declaration of partnership and co-operation, confirms the intention to continue working in this format of co-operation between the countries of Central Asia and the United States," he said.

The C5+1 has already shown its effectiveness, according to Beisaliyev.

"The development of relations with other Central Asian countries and the United States is the main priority of Kazakhstan's foreign policy. Nur-Sultan supports and is making efforts to preserve and expand the C5+1 format," he said.

"Prior to this, an attempt was made to create a single platform called 'Central Asian co-operation', with Russia's participation, and in my opinion, it didn't live up to its hopes," Beisaliyev said.

Beisaliyev added he is confident that joint efforts will be successful in the C5+1 format and that "all announced plans will be successfully implemented."

"In the context of globalisation, all participating countries will benefit from this co-operation. The ... strategy proposed by the United States is fully in line with the interests of the Central Asian countries," said Beisaliyev.

"We hope that the statement will have a certain influence on the further development of co-operation between Central Asian countries and the United States," said Eldar Asanov, the deputy editor of the online publication and a department chief of the Turon24 news agency in Tashkent.

The statement mentions economic development and integration of Central Asia into the global economy, he said, adding that US investors and manufacturers have been watching the development of the situation in Uzbekistan for three years (the period since reformer Shavkat Mirziyoyev became president).

"It shouldn't be ruled out that the Central Asian region will arouse great interest in US businesspeople in the future," Asanov said.

Regional security, civil society

The other topics mentioned in the joint statement are extremely important for maintaining peace and stability in the region, Asanov said.

"The joint statement of the C5+1 ministers confirmed that the current US administration hopes to strengthen relations with the countries of the region and, together with them, solve acute regional problems ... such as the further strengthening of the C5+1 format and co-operation in countering terrorism," he noted.

"Terrorism has no borders, financial streams to terrorists come from abroad and ideologues from other countries indoctrinate our young men on the internet. This is a shared problem, a common misfortune that can be solved only jointly," said Leila Baimanova, director of Altyn Karpygash (Golden Swallow), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Shymkent.

Baimanova highlighted important civil society development issues, which were also referred to in the joint statement.

"Countries have expressed their intention to support and strengthen civil society, respect human rights, adhere to international standards such as the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on Principles of International Law. For us social activists, this is very important," she said.

The US Agency for International Development and US foundations have made great contributions to support Central Asian civic organisations, she noted.

"Civil society in our countries has formed largely because of the support of foreign foundations and, in recent years, also thanks to understanding from governments," Baimanova said. "Today, many NGOs are firmly on their feet and have the opportunity to successfully implement their socially significant projects."

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