Robert Blake: ‘We understand the importance of energy security for Tajikistan

 

http://asiaplus.tj/en/news/48/62064.html

 

February 13, 2010, Umed Babakhanov

 

 

On Friday February 12, the Tajikistan-United States political consultations ended in Washington.  Mr. Robert O. Blake, Jr., Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, gave an exclusive interview to Asia-Plus the day before the final session.

 

Q. Beginning from December last year the American administration started political consultations with the countries of Central Asia.  Washington has been visited already by the Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Tajik official delegation has just arrived.  What issues are discussed at these meetings?  Do they mean the beginning of a new phase in the U.S. policy in the region?

 

A. Once the weather cooperates the U.S. and Tajik Governments will sit down to discuss their entire bilateral relationship. This includes border security, anti-terrorism efforts, the Northern Distribution Network, human rights, business and investment climate, development issues, agricultural reform, food security, fiscal transparency, and energy . These meetings are an opportunity to seek progress on the full range of matters on our agenda and identify more areas of cooperation for both sides in our relationship.

 

 

Q. Last year Northern Distribution Network (NDN) has become very important and it is increasingly used by the Pentagon and the allies to deliver non-military goods to Afghanistan. However, political and economic contradictions between the Central Asian countries, which sometimes become quite serious, could disrupt the stability of supply. In particular, I can mention the opposite approach of Dushanbe and Tashkent to the issue of building the region's largest Hydro Power Station Rogun.  What is the Washington's position on Rogun?

 

A. We understand the importance of energy security for Tajikistan and support the government’s efforts to make sure its citizens, enterprises, and institutions have access to adequate and reliable power. We encourage Tajikistan to take into consideration the views of their neighbors when pursuing hydropower development plans – like Roghun. In addition to Roghun, we encourage Tajikistan to consider developing small hydropower stations.

 

 

Q. Recently, Tajikistan, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs in London and Washington made a number of proposals to enhance its role in restoring peace in Afghanistan.  How do you evaluate these initiatives, how are they realistic?

 

A. The United States appreciates Tajikistan’s role in helping to stabilize Afghanistan.  Our discussions with Tajik authorities include security cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan, which shares a long border with Tajikistan.

 

 

Q.  Tajikistan has more than 1 thousand kilometers of common borders with Afghanistan and the intensification of military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the strengthening ISAF troops many people fear that the Taliban could cross the river Panj, and come to the Tajik territory.  In this case, fighting spread to Tajikistan.  How realistic do you think, such a scenario?

 

A. To help Tajikistan prepare for any such contingencies, the U.S. and Tajikistan Governments share a positive working relationship in the area of border security. In our border-related program work in Tajikistan, we have tried to bring a broad array of U.S. interagency players together – “a whole of government” response.

Through various bureaus in the State Department and Department of Defense, we are currently working with the Tajikistan counterparts to improve border post infrastructure, build or modernize port-of-entry, and offer many different training programs – all with the objective of helping Tajikistan improve its effectiveness at preventing transnational threats from crossing into Tajikistan.