Arzuw NEWS - Turkmenistan news

"Military Past. The Diplomatic Present. Turkmenistan's Future," an exclusive interview with U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan Matthew S. Klimow

On February 7 this year, U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Turkmenistan Matthew Klimow was interviewed by Arzuw NEWS:

Here are the main questions and answers from this interview:

"The U.S. New Strategy in Central Asia. What is it about?
And also the C5+1 format. What is this? And what role, in your opinion, does Turkmenistan play in the C5+1 format?

The U.S. recently published an article on Central Asia, and I can summarize it quite easily because, there are 3 main points in it.

One, it reinforces the very words I used when I arrived here in June. The U.S. is fully committed to Turkmenistan's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity - those were my words. The Central Asia Strategy says the same thing about Central Asia as a region. The U.S. is committed to Central Asia and the Central Asian countries in terms of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The second major point of this strategy is that the U.S. looks at Central Asia as a very important geopolitical region in its own right. And I say this because I think it is a misconception that some people in recent years have suggested that our interest here is based on a deep commitment to Afghanistan. Well, that's simply not true. We have a commitment to Afghanistan that will continue, but we see Central Asia as an important entity in itself, a place where we want to do trade and business, that leads to the third point of the strategy. Which is our great desire to expand our ties with Central Asia.
I like to tell people and ask them, "What do you think American business is?" And I pause and wait for an answer, but they're not sure of the answer. Well American business is business. We're business people, and when we look at Central Asia and especially Turkmenistan, your centuries-old tradition of trade on the Silk Road, I think - there's a great area for a relationship. We want to do business in Central Asia. We want to do business in Turkmenistan. And I'm always looking for opportunities to introduce American businessmen to Turkmenistan and introduce Turkmen businessmen to what we have to offer in the United States. So, these economic and trade ideas are included in the Central Asia strategy, but there is an important nuance. In the Central Asia strategy, we make it clear that the U.S. believes that Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan, should have choices and should be able to choose on their own terms who they want to trade with, who they want to turn to for training, for security measures, for advice and counseling, without anyone telling them and telling them which direction to turn. So that brings us back to the first point about sovereignty and independence. We want a prosperous, free and secure Central Asia. The U.S. and I, as Ambassador to one of the Central Asian countries, will do everything I can to help in this regard.
You also mentioned the concept of C5+1, which is probably a foreign term to many of your viewers. The C5+1 is just a way of saying five Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan, plus one is the United States. We've met on the C5+1 arrangements twice in the last six months f at the level of foreign ministers, which is quite astonishing. So my big boss, Secretary of State Pompeo has now met with the foreign minister of the Central Asian country twice in the last six months on the whole range of issues, including security, the economy, also the human factor, talking about democracy, freedoms, and human rights, issues that are dear to Americans. And I think the C5+1 format has become a rallying point now, to bring like-minded nations together where we can discuss issues with mutual respect. The tough issues, not just issues like trade, but some of the tough security issues, are part and parcel of this region that connects Europe and all of Asia.

What do you think the future holds for CA in 10-15 years? How do you see it for this region?

I think this is a time of increased optimism in many of the areas I mentioned.

Not only is Central Asia a special region for the United States, it is really one of the few places in the world where you can see two continents merge - Asia and Europe. This region encompasses many things. Not just geography, but culture and geopolitical challenges. And since Turkmenistan is in the center of all this, I think there are opportunities, as well as risks, of course, opportunities for economic growth, exchange of ideas, increased economic opportunities for young people, studying at universities here in Turkmenistan or studying at universities abroad. I am optimistic.

A few minutes ago you were talking about trade, business, and you know that Turkmenistan has been working to diversify its exports of energy resources over the years. How do you assess the prospects for the TAPI project?

We, the United States, have always expressed our support for TAPI, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project.

I believe and know that our government believes that this can lead to transformation. I believe Turkmenistan has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world. India is showing tremendous growth, Pakistan is hungry for energy sources, Afghanistan is becoming, I hope, a stable country that can look to the future and they will need these energy resources. It makes sense for Turkmenistan to look in that direction. But I've also been a proponent of diversification. Europe, Western Europe is hungry for energy. And it makes sense to look west as well as east. I think there is real potential to sell gas to European countries.
It will take some time, but why not look in that direction? And it gives you an expansion of options. So I think, as you said about diversification, that's something that definitely needs to be considered.

Matthew S. Klimow assumed the position of United States ChePP in Turkmenistan on May 30, 2019. Prior to his appointment, Matthew S. Klimow served as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

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