(Following the meeting with the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov, Presidential Dacha, Dushanbe, Tajikistan)
Foreign Minister Nazarov (Through interpreter): Dear representatives of mass media, we have just finished the meeting of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Sharipovich (Rahmonov), with the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. As you know this is the second visit of the Secretary of Defense to Tajikistan. The first time the Secretary of Defense came to meet with the President of Tajikistan, was the 3rd of November immediately after the launch of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. At that time the sides agreed on the formation of the anti-terrorist coalition and joint fight against terrorism. Tajikistan took an obligation to provide the anti-terrorist coalition with its air space and other infrastructural assistance in providing this operation. And our country has been fulfilling its commitment up to this date.
In the course of the current visit of the Secretary of Defense, the sides discussed ensuring security in Central Asia in general and on the Tajik-Afghan border. And a great importance was given to the issue of establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the continued fight against the remnants of terrorist organizations. And the sides also stressed the need to form a political system in Afghanistan in line with the parliamentary elections due this fall.
And this meeting focused on such issues as post-war rehabilitation of Afghanistan, eradication of drug production and planting of alternative crops. The Republic of Tajikistan confirmed its commitment to help the people of Afghanistan and assistance to anti-terrorism coalition in Afghanistan and achieving peace and stability in the neighboring country. The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov, expressed his deep appreciation to the Government of United States for the provided humanitarian assistance and its continued active anti-terrorism struggle against the Taliban which posed serious potential threat to the whole Central Asian region and the security in this region, and he also expressed his greatest gratitude for the construction of the bridge across the Pyanj River, which connects Tajikistan and Afghanistan which according to President of Tajikistan may become an important factor contributing to the economic development with the countries of Central Asia and accelerate the trade and commercial development of the whole South Asian region. They have also exchanged views on a broad spectrum of issues of bilateral, mutual interests. Now I have the pleasure to give the floor to the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, Donald Rumsfeld.
SEC RUMSFELD: Mr. Minister, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here with you again, and particularly in this very lovely setting. We’ve had good meetings today. Our two countries are solid partners in the global struggle against extremism and in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The foreign minister mentioned my last visit here in November 2001. I recall that visit well. The Taliban forces remained in power in Kabul. For years they had harbored the violent extremists of the Al-Qaeda network. Those extremists had recently murdered 3,000 men, women, and children in the United States. If one thinks back -- three and a half years later, the Taliban has been driven from power, the people of Afghanistan have courageously elected the first popularly elected President in the 5,000 year history of the country. The parliamentary and provincial elections are scheduled for September 18th of this year.
And certainly the Central Asian region is more stable and more secure. And a visible example of that will be the new bridge to be built between your country and Afghanistan, which should significantly increase economic activity for both countries. These successes have benefited greatly from the support of Tajikistan.
Mr. Minister, I thank you and I thank the president and the people of Tajikistan for their solid support. And in closing let me just add that our shared interests involve not only counter-terrorism but also counter-narcotics, non-proliferation of dangerous weapons and our common interest in the region’s economic growth. The United States certainly looks forward to our country’s continued cooperation on these important issues. Mr. Minister, thank you sir.
Question: Mr. Minister, have you and the president, with other government officials, discussed the issue of the declaration made by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and within the terms of the declaration are you planning any visit to Uzbekistan.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, that question did not come up. And no, I don’t have any plans at the present time.
Question: Mr. Minister, is Tajikistan going to continue its current arrangements with the United States military for refueling and emergency landing access, and would it consider broadening the arrangement in the future?
Foreign Minister Nazarov (Through interpreter): I mentioned that Tajikistan has been and will strictly observe all its international commitments. We provided our airspace not only to the U.S. forces, but to other countries of the anti-terrorist coalition. We have also provided not only our airspace but other facilities as well. You know that the French troops are using our Dushanbe airport for their gas-and-go operations. Such cooperation with the French forces is formalized and we intend to continue our active cooperation with the U.S. and other members of the anti-terrorist coalition.
Question: Mr. Secretary of Defense, I would like to know if the U.S. attitude towards so called countries of the Axis of Evil has changed, and are you planning any radical actions against these countries, for example Iran and Korea.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have no announcements to make like that.
Question: Question for both ministers. Can you please discuss what specific steps both of your countries are taking to combat the narcotics trade and narcotics trafficking across the border?
ForEIGN MinISTER Nazarov (Through interpreter): Yes we know that currently active measures are being taken by the Tajik side in terms of protection and increasing the security of the Tajik-Afghan border. As you know Tajikistan has a special drug control agency, and according to the views of international organizations this agency is very successfully and actively operating. And together with other law enforcement agencies, Tajikistan is seizing substantial amounts of drugs. And according to our information the Afghan Government, with support from the United States, is also taking comprehensive measures on Afghan territory. And as I mentioned, Afghan farmers should have the opportunity to cultivate other agricultural products to earn their living. We also stressed during this meeting that drugs are not only an evil in themselves but they are also the source of financing terrorist organizations and terrorist activity, and we should actively combat drug production and drug traffickers.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The United States is involved in two ways. We’re very much supporting the Afghan Government’s comprehensive approach. The lead country from the Bonn Conference of course is the United Kingdom with respect to counter-narcotics, and the United States, along with a number of European countries that are generally the recipients of drugs out of Afghanistan, are all cooperating. Second, the United States has extensive cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan with respect to the development and evolution of their border patrol.
FOREIGN MINISTRY HEAD OF INFORMATION DEPARTMENT SATTOROV: (through interpreter): Dear ladies and gentlemen, time for the press conference is up. Thank you all for your participation. Let me thank the minister of foreign affairs of Tajikistan and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for giving this opportunity for us. Thank you very much.