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Uzbekistan: U.S. Expands Air Transport

Washington, 2 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The United States and Uzbekistan signed (Feb. 27) an air transport agreement and statements of intent to significantly expand bilateral ties.

The documents were signed at the end of a two-day inaugural session of the U.S.-Uzbek Joint Commission, held at the U.S. State Department.

At the start of the meetings yesterday, President Bill Clinton sent a letter of welcome to the Uzbek delegation, saying the U.S. greatly values its relationship with Uzbekistan and strongly supports the country's sovereignty and territorial independence.

Clinton said in the letter that the U.S. wants to help Uzbekistan build a vibrant, pluralistic society and assume its rightful role in the region and the world.

"Our countries can and should promote regional security, democratic and economic reform, and Uzbekistan's integration into the world economy," Clinton said.

The concluding documents said that in a discussion of regional security, the U.S. and Uzbekistan reaffirmed support and cooperation in efforts to establish a lasting peace in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

They agreed their policies towards Iran would depend on the Iranian government's actions on terrorism, subversion and other areas of concern.

The final statement also said the U.S. and Uzbekistan will work closely with other countries in Central Asia to develop a common water-management and energy-sharing policy

The two sides also discussed ways to accelerate economic reforms and democratization in Uzbekistan. The U.S. expressed concern about human rights violations and noted that progress in bilateral relations would depend heavily on further democratization and respect for human rights.

The two sides agreed on the importance of a free press and modern communications. The U.S. agreed to help Uzbekistan further develop a multi-party system, expand information exchanges, and liberalize travel.

The two countries will work on simplifying visa requirements, expanding Uzbekistan's aviation industry and opening new airline routes under the new air transport agreement.

The U.S. and Uzbekistan will also expand military contacts under a 1998 Defense Cooperation Plan signed this week and increase bilateral trade beyond the total volume of 227 million dollars achieved last year.

The U.S. states in the concluding documents on economic cooperation that it will continue to assist Uzbekistan in economic reform and integration into the world market system and plans to provide $19 million for these purposes in 1998. But it urged the Uzbek government to lift currency restrictions as soon as possible.