The FINANCIAL — U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken to Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev in a telephone call that focused on security in Central Asia and the prospects for closer ties.
The White House said that the purpose of the December 19 call was “to discuss regional security and to explore opportunities for improved cooperation.”
They also discussed “Uzbekistan’s role in Central Asia, including its support for President Trump’s South Asia strategy and United States efforts in Afghanistan,” it said in a statement.
Trump “noted Uzbekistan’s reform efforts, which will set the conditions for increased trade and improved security against terrorist threats,” the White House said.
Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are involved in a war against militants that began after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Forces of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) fighting in Iraq and Syria since 2014 have included Uzbeks and others from ex-Soviet Central Asia.
Suspects in several attacks in the West in recent years have been from Uzbekistan, including the man authorities say killed eight people in a truck attack in New York City in October, according to RFE/RL.
Mirziyoev was named interim president after the death of autocratic longtime President Islam Karimov was announced in September 2016, and was subsequently elected in a tightly controlled vote in December that year.
He has taken steps aimed at decreasing Uzbekistan’s isolation, mending tense ties with neighboring Central Asian countries, and improving the struggling economy in the former Soviet republic of some 30 million people.
A statement on the Uzbek president’s website said that Trump hailed Uzbekistan’s “open and constructive foreign policy and its active efforts to develop friendly ties and cooperation with neighboring countries in the region.”
“The U.S. president expressed his support to the new stage of democratic changes and economic reforms taking place in our country, aiming at strengthening of the civil society, rule of law, and liberalization of economy,” the Uzbek statement said.
Mirziyoev and Trump have met twice while in office — in Saudi Arabia in May and during the UN General Assembly in New York in September.