This week, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu is visiting Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (from 6 to 11 November).
According to the State Department, the visit is aimed “to o reinforce the United States’ commitment to each country’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity and our shared goal of a prosperous, secure, and democratic Central Asia.”
In Turkmenistan, Assistant Secretary Lu will engage with exchange program alumni and meet with senior government officials to discuss our partnership on a range of bilateral and regional issues.
The delegation will then travel to Uzbekistan to meet with government officials as well as civil society and cultural groups to further advance our support for women and girls’ empowerment and freedom of religion or belief.
In Kazakhstan, Assistant Secretary Lu will meet with economic and business leaders to discuss Central Asia’s economic stability and regional connectivity as well as civil society leaders to support their vital role in shaping Kazakhstan’s future.
While in the region, Assistant Secretary Lu will discuss the launch of the Economic Resilience Initiative in Central Asia. Through the Initiative, the United States will provide $25 million in funding to bolster regional trade routes and capacity, educate and train a skilled workforce, and attract international investment to Central Asia.
On Sunday (6 November), Donald Lu held a press briefing in Ashgabat, which raised the following issues (based on materials from TASS and Orient):
The United States supports constructive and positive relations between the Central Asian countries and Russia
The United States stands for positive and constructive relations between the Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation, given the long-standing historical ties between the region and Russia, Donald Lu said.
“The United States wants Central Asia to have positive, constructive relations with Russia. Because there is a long history between the peoples of this region and Russia”, the Turkmen Orient news agency quoted Lu as saying.
The purpose of his visit to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, he called the demonstration of the US position on protecting and supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Central Asian countries, in particular Turkmenistan. “It’s never been more important than it is now,” Lu said.
The representative of the State Department noted at the same time that “there is no pressure from the United States on political or military issues.” “We have great respect for Turkmenistan’s policy and its positive neutrality,” Lu stressed.
“During this visit, we are focusing on economic cooperation, trade relations and the environment,” he added.
He noted that in September, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced two new programs for Central Asia.
The new assistance worth US $ 25 million will be directed on the creation of well-paid jobs in Central Asia and the promotion of exports of local goods to international markets. The second program, worth US $16.5 million, is aimed at promoting food security in the region.
On the prospects of Turkmen gas in the European market
Turkmenistan, based on the market situation, has very good prospects for supplying its gas to the European Union. This opinion was expressed by Donald Lu.
He recalled that 20 years ago, when he was a charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Baku, the EU, the USA and Turkmenistan talked about the possibility of supplying Turkmen gas to Europe. “And now is a very interesting moment, because gas prices are very high. And I think it will be very good for the Turkmen government to think about this project now,” Lu said during a briefing.
Lu believes that the more opportunities there are for gas supplies from the country in different directions, the better it will be for the Turkmen people. “This will ensure the people of Turkmenistan not only the highest prices for Turkmen gas, but also the reliability of supplies. The United States is ready to help in any way that is possible, but we will not buy Turkmen gas, we have a lot of gas in the United States,” the diplomat said.
Benefiting from anti-Russian sanctions
The United States intends to help the government of Turkmenistan and the country’s business community in benefiting from the anti-Russian sanctions, US Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu said.
He cited the example of Kazakhstan, where the largest banks Alfa Bank and Sberbank were sold to Kazakh businessmen by their Russian owners.
“We will be happy to work with the Government of Turkmenistan and with the business community in order to assist them in obtaining greater benefits for them from the sanctions regime,” he said during a briefing.
Lu added that the United States is working with the government of Turkmenistan to ensure that businesses and enterprises in the country feel as little as possible the effect of this sanctions regime.
He believes the risks to the country’s economy are very small since there is no much defense cooperation with Russia and a lot of business “with Russian oligarchs”. “One area that may be associated with difficulties in connection with the sanctions regime is banking operations through Russia,” he said.
The American business mission will visit Turkmenistan in December – the educational program will resume
Promotion of investments in the private sector of Turkmenistan is one of the most important programs implemented in the country through the USAID agency. Promoting the growth of small and medium-sized businesses will allow us to see huge changes in the lives of ordinary people, according to US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu.
He said that in December, a business mission is expected under the Turkmen-US Business Council will visit Turkmenistan. It will include top executives of American companies, they will have meetings in the government of Turkmenistan and with representatives of business circles.
According to him, through USAID and other implementing partners, the United States invests about US $ 7 million a year in the support program in Turkmenistan.
“There are billions of dollars available in investments, both in the United States and in other countries around the world, if only to show the potential that exists within the country,” Lu added.
During the briefing, the Assistant Secretary of State shared the latest news that the Government of Turkmenistan has given permission to resume the exchange program “Future Leaders” (FLEX), suspended due to the pandemic for two years.
“920 Turkmen students participated in this program, receiving a scholarship and the opportunity to study in high schools in American schools for a year. Now we are happy to announce the recruitment of candidates for this program for the next academic year,” Lu said. ///nCa, 7 November 2022 (photo source – Turkmenportal)