Cablegate: Karimov Urges Closer Cooperation with U.S., Commits To

O 021155Z NOV 00


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/02/10


C o n f i d e n t i a l section 01 of 03 tashkent 004223 e.o. 12958: decl: 11/02/10 tags: prel, pter, ru, af, uz subject: Karimov urges closer cooperation with US., commits to frank airing of differences classified by amb John E. Herbst, reasons: 1.5 (b,d)
1. (c) summary: on November 1, the ambassador presented credentials to president Karimov. This was followed by a spirited discussion of about one hour during which Karimov argued for deeper cooperation with the u.s., charged Russia with maneuvering to restore hegemony in central Asia, and outlined the strategy of Uzbekistan (and CIS friends Ukraine and Georgia) to foil Russian designs. Karimov reiterated his familiar argument about Uzbekistan’s centrality to the Islamic world and value as a partner to the united states. He concluded by stating Uzbekistan’s willingness to respond to our criticisms on human rights and other issues. He seemed, however, to relegate the hard or contentious issues to foreign minister Kamilov. End summary.
2. (c) ambassador Herbst presented his credentials to president Islom Karimov on November 1. The meeting which followed was also attended by formin Kamilov and dcm (notetaker). President Karimov thanked the ambassador for having spoken to the press in Uzbek on his arrival in Tashkent on Saturday, October 28. This gesture had signified the respect and esteem of the united states for Uzbekistan and its people. Relations with the united states were extremely important. Uzbekistan appreciated the material help it receives from the u.s. and, above all, the attention Uzbekistan receives from senior u.s. policy-makers. No country could undertake democratic and economic reforms without help. He saluted the efforts of the united states and Europe in training the next generation of leaders. These efforts were laying the basis for progress on democratic and economic reforms.
Growing u.s. - Uzbekistan cooperation
3. (c) relations between the u.s. and Uzbekistan had gone through various phases in their short history, Karimov observed. The visit of secretary Albright in April had been a breakthrough. In her three days in Uzbekistan, she did more than meet officials. She actually got a flavor for the people and their culture. Human contacts were very important. When Karimov met her in new York at the millennium summit, secretary Albright had acknowledged that her visit had given her much to reflect upon. The visit had shaped her opinions on Uzbekistan and the region.
4. (c) Karimov noted that Uzbekistan’s positions on international issues - for example within the u.n. framework - often were identical to those of the united states. This was not because Uzbekistan sought to curry favor with us. It was because Uzbekistan, acting in pursuit of its own interests, usually found itself in agreement with the u.s. Uzbekistan agreed with the u.s. more often than Uzbekistan’s neighbors did, indeed more often than most countries. Unlike some of them, Uzbekistan did not shift its positions depending on some petty calculations. Kazakhstan, for example, was pro-u.s. on a question one day and opposed the u.s. the next.
5. (c) a clear illustration of Uzbekistan’s closeness to the u.s. on key issues was the middle east, Karimov continued. Israeli political leader Nathan Scharansky had recently come to Tashkent on one of his frequent visits and had met Karimov. Karimov and he had agreed that countries not directly involved in the peace process were glad to see it falter. Other "fanatic" countries were deliberately inflaming the situation. Those that were complacent in the face of the worsening situation did not consider the dangerous consequences for themselves. Noting president Putin was now on an official visit to Paris, Karimov said Putin and the French were pressing to open the peace process to their participation. The u.s. was right to resist these efforts. Russia had no resources to offer and therefore could not contribute to middle east peace. Radical forces were also at work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Karimov noted. The GOU worked closely with the u.s. on Afghanistan through amb Safayev's meetings with a/s inderfurth.
6. (c) on the economic front, Karimov noted his own good relations with Usexim and Usexim president Harman. U.s. technical assistance was also very welcome. He cited the casi border security program as an instance of this.
7. (c) the visit of newly-appointed defmin Gulamov to the u.s. showed our increasing closeness on security issues, Karimov said. Gulamov was being received at a senior level throughout the administration. Uzbekistan was undertaking deep military reforms and had the first civilian defmin in the CIS. Karimov knew and respected Gulamov as a scientist. The Russians would much prefer to deal with a general as defmin, since generals typically had been trained in soviet military institutions. Gulamov, by contrast, was modern and enlightened. Karimov did not want to see the military meddle in politics or take public positions on political issues as in Russia.
Views on the nis -- the Russians are scheming
8. (c) within the CIS, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine and sometimes Azerbaijan had common positions, said Karimov. To the ambassador's query about Moldova, Karimov replied that Lusinchi was weak and wobbly. Uzbekistan and its friends in the CIS were committed to a CIS of independent, sovereign countries and opposed to Russian attempts to dominate the others. The four wanted the CIS to focus mainly on building economic links such as trade and investment. In an interview just published in the French newspaper Figaro, Putin had said Russian foreign policy did not seek to dominate others. This was not true. One only has to look, for example, at how Russia was using natural gas sales and transport as leverage over Ukraine and Turkmenistan.
9. (c) the Eurasian economic community recently launched in Astana by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan showed, Karimov argued, that Russia was giving up on the CIS, because it could not impose its will on all. Russia was pushing instead for a closer, Russia-dominated subgroup of CIS countries. On the security front, Russia was pushing a parallel initiative with the members of the CIS security treaty. Russia hoped that the other CIS members would ultimately be attracted to join these sub-groups, with the end result being something like the USSR. Putin was not different from Yeltsin, but merely more aggressive and more focused around the agenda of restoring Russia’s great power status.
10. (c) the ambassador asked how Uzbekistan’s relations with Russia and Putin had evolved since the latter's visit soon after his election. Karimov noted that Putin's first visit had been as prime minister. He was sent by Yeltsin to persuade Karimov to come to Moscow for talks. Yeltsin had tried hard for a long time to bring Karimov and Shevardnadze back under Moscow’s wing. He and Shevardnadze were determined not to do so. Aliyev, however, was not so firmly set on maintaining his distance from the Russians. Karimov judged him to be capable of switching camps at some point. Unlike Shevardnadze, Aliyev was not driven by conviction, only tactical advantage. Incidentally, Niyazov was completely unreliable as a partner for anyone. He had tried to use Turkmenistan’s natural gas to blackmail various partners and had been shown up as not serious.
11. (c) once Putin had become president, he had renewed his attempts to bring Karimov back into the fold, Karimov continued. Russia considered Uzbekistan to be a gateway to the Arab and Muslim world. With its holy sites and the contribution of noted Islamic scholars from Uzbekistan’s history, Uzbekistan had to be considered central to the Islamic world. Islamic philosophy and learning owed much to Uzbekistan and was not to be confused with washbasin and other debased ideologies. Friendship with Uzbekistan should be important to the u.s. for the same reason - to build bridges to the Islamic world. The 'fanatics' wanted power in Uzbekistan precisely because they recognize the country's importance in Islamic tradition. The leader of Islamic communities in the united states completely shared Karimov's views on this matter. Russia understood; the u.s. should too.
Afghanistan- treading lightly
12. (c) turning to Afghanistan, Karimov noted the recent Taliban victories and Masood reverses. The Russian media had been exaggerating the danger of a Taliban victory for central Asian security. They had depicted a Tashkent "surrounded by wahhabites." the Taliban were supposedly massing forces on the other side of the border from Termez and acquiring boats to infiltrate across the Amu Darya. All of this was published deliberately to sow panic among Uzbekistan’s people. The Russians hoped that the people would pressure Karimov to ask for military help from Russia. Russia had tried to provoke a "small border war" between Uzbekistan and the Taliban in order to force the GOU to accept Russian military help. The ambassador asked how Russia could accomplish this. Was Karimov suggesting Russia supported the Taliban materially? Karimov answered no. Russia's tactics were for example the issuance of presidential adviser Yastrzembskiy's public threats in may of Russian air strikes on terrorist bases in Afghanistan. This was intended to provoke the Taliban to attack Uzbekistan (which would have to allow its airspace to be used under such a scenario). Russia was maneuvering to set the Taliban against Uzbekistan. Russia had reinforced its security and other cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. This was of little use to Russia so long as Uzbekistan refused to play. Russia also was building up the Taliban threat in order to divert international attention from its doings in Chechnya. Uzbekistan wants normal relations with Russia, relations of two states on an equal footing, Karimov concluded. The Russians' goal was military bases, which Karimov would never allow.
13. (c) as to the GOU's recent contacts with the Taliban, Karimov said Uzbekistan did not expect to find common ground with these radical, fanatical ideologues. Karimov knew and had told general Musharraf about Uzbekistan’s knowledge of Taliban support for terrorism and involvement in drug trafficking. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan wanted to avoid needlessly provoking conflict with the Taliban. Even if the Taliban managed to take over the whole territory of Afghanistan, they would not be able to govern it. The movement would splinter and new fighting would start. The only hope for a lasting settlement was an inclusive government encompassing many different political forces. Uzbekistan supported the initiative of the former king of Afghanistan. His representative would visit Tashkent later this month.
14. (c) the ambassador told Karimov the u.s. is committed to deepening our cooperation with Uzbekistan across many fronts. He was impressed by the range of areas where we were already working together. The united states embassy would surely expand and needed the cooperation of the GOU in locating suitable property for construction of a new embassy. Karimov indicated his support. The ambassador noted again that we needed to build our cooperation across all fronts, which included not only security but political and economic areas.
15. (c) picking up the ambassador's hint, Karimov said he had deliberately discussed only the areas where the GOU and u.s. views were in accord. Next time the two should address those areas where the GOU and the u.s. did not see eye to eye. He knew we had contacts with so-called opposition figures. Some of them were not genuine opposition figures but insane (bolnoy). After the ambassador had begun to form his own direct impressions of these matters, he would be glad to open a direct, frank exchange on them. For now, he would only say that the u.s. should apply an appropriate standard when judging Uzbekistan’s performance. The state department's demands were not always reasonable, but the GOU was open to discussing them. The ambassador indicated willingness to engage with the president on these issues, at which point Karimov gestured to formin Kamilov, saying the ambassador should discuss these matters with Kamilov. 16. (c) comment: this was a good first meeting with Karimov. He was spontaneous and allowed himself to be drawn away from his script. We are intrigued by his suggestion that, after the ambassador had been here a little while, we should discuss the difficult internal political and economic issues. But Karimov’s prompt rejoinder that the ambassador should take these issues up with Kamilov may mean that Karimov prefers to avoid them. Herbst

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