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Central Asia/Caucasus: Talbott Urges Deeper Ties

Washington, 22 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott yesterday called for a strong U.S. role in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

He told a group of scholars, diplomats and reporters in Washington yesterday that deep U.S. involvement in the eight countries there is needed to help keep democratic and economic reforms on track and stabilize what he called "a strategically vital region."

Talbott said the emergence of stable, free societies would open up a valuable trade and transport corridor along the old Silk Road between Europe and Asia, as well as develop the region's huge oil and gas reserves. He said an essential task for U.S. policy in the area is to help resolve ethnic and other conflicts.

Talbott said the U.S. message to the region's countries is simple -- that as long as they move toward economic and political freedom, and national and international reconciliation, the United States will stand with them.

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), at a separate press conference, yesterday criticized U.S. policy in Central Asia and the Caucausus, saying it is Russocentric.

He said the U.S. should restructure its policy to help the nations in the region forge strong ties among themselves and with the West. Brownback also said a strong U.S. presence is needed to offset Iranian and Russian pressures on the region.