Interview in Dushanbe with Assistant Secretaries Jones and CranerA. Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Embassy Dushanbe
November 13, 2003
Question (State TV): What is the main aim of your visit to Tajikistan and what were the main issues you discussed with President Rahmonov?
Answer (A/S Jones): The primary purpose of our visit is to discuss how we can expand, how we can intensify our bilateral relations.
We have extremely good cooperation in respect to developments in Afghanistan. We talked about how Tajikistan can work on the basis of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] review to improve its economic situation as well.
We discussed the importance of Tajikistan improving its legislative framework and its economic reforms so that it can join the World Trade Organization. Among those are to improve the ability of the agricultural sector which, of course, requires land reform.
We also talked at some length about the importance of allowing civil society to develop so that elections can be held in a free and fair manner in 2005.
Question (Dutch Welle): How do you evaluate the level of democratic transformations in Tajikistan in [relation to] other Central Asian countries?
Answer (A/S Craner): I think that, given how much time was lost to the civil war, the development has been impressive.
We were able to meet earlier today with a group of civil society activists who were very specific and I think had very good observations of the country and what it needs in its future.
It is clear to me that the people of Tajikistan want stability, but they want to have the same government. And that's why issues such as media law, election law, and other developments are very important to the future development of Tajikistan.
Question (RIA Novosti): During your meetings in other countries of Central Asia, you said that you are paying priority attention to such nations. What are your priorities in Tajikistan? What kind of relations would like to have with Tajikistan?
Answer (A/S Jones): As I said when I first came out of the meeting with the President, we would like to develop our relations with Tajikistan because we had a bit of period of time during the civil war where that wasn't possible.
The issues of economic reform, Tajikistan's desire to join the World Trade Organization, the development of civil society are all very important elements of our bilateral relationship. But we also place importance on the development of Tajikistan's ability to protect itself, to develop good border control, to work against narcotics trafficking, to work against trafficking in persons. These are also very important elements of our bilateral relationship.
Every one of the issues that I have mentioned also requires increased regional integration and increased regional cooperation.
We have been very interested on this trip to listen to ideas of the leaders of Tajikistan, or Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan about how that might be possible.
Question (Associated Press): You have talked about free elections in the year 2005. How free and democratic were the previous elections?
Answer (A/S Craner): We don't think they were as free as they could have been. But it is clear that the government is interested in further development and in having them be more free and more open. One thing that is clear is that there are world standards for elections to which many, many countries adhere. Those standards are something that Tajikistan has within its reach.
Thank you very much.
Released on November 17, 2003