President Donald Trump met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the White House on May 17, marking a new era in relations with Uzbekistan that is trying to move away from its authoritarian legacy.
The two leaders addressed security issues in Central Asia, including stability in Afghanistan. They condemned extremism and international terrorism and agreed to cooperate more against these threats.
During the meeting, Trump raised issues of press freedom and human rights, particularly promotion of religious freedom in Uzbekistan.
Trump applauded Mirziyoyev’s effort to improve the human rights situation in the country, such as the release of prisoners of conscience, reducing forced labor, and the elimination of systematic child labor.
According to critics, Mirziyoyev has taken some steps in the right direction since becoming president in late 2016, but the country still has a long way to go toward making meaningful improvements to its human rights record.
Uzbekistan’s long-serving authoritarian president, Islam Karimov, died in September 2016 after running the country for almost 27 years. Former Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev became interim president after Karimov’s death and, a few months later, won a tightly controlled presidential election.
“He’s a highly respected man in his country and throughout,” said Trump. “We’ve been working very closely together on different things, including trade. They’ve actually made investments here. We make investments there.”
Uzbekistan signed more than 20 major business deals with U.S. companies. The total amount of these contracts is worth nearly $5 billion, according to the White House.