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Bilateral Meeting With Acting Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Maj. Gen. Bahkodir Kurbanov, Minister of Defense for the Republic of Uzbekistan

ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: Well, good morning, Mr. Minister.

Before we begin, let me say that we are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400. Our position regarding the F-35 has not changed, and I will speak with my Turkish counterpart, Mr. Akar, this afternoon. So there will be more to follow after that conversation, but for now, let me welcome our guests.

Mr. Kurbanov, welcome to the Pentagon. It is a pleasure to host you on your first visit to the United States as minister of defense. Our meeting today builds on your president's visit last year with President Trump.

Uzbekistan is a respected and valued partner, especially with regard to military operations in Afghanistan. We also work closely together on counterterrorism, border security and defense institution building. Regarding the latter, we are proud to assist Uzbekistan as you develop the curriculum for your armed forces academy. And, Mr. Minister, I understand you toured several sites across the United States related to this effort, including the Defense Language Institute in San Antonio, where we are glad to have three Uzbek military officers learning English, and Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, where an Uzbek pilot will participate in our Aviation Leadership program next year.

I visited Camp Shelby myself last August to see the fantastic training facilities used by our Mississippi National Guard. I'm encouraged by their long-standing cooperation with Uzbekistan through our State Partnership program.

Beyond defense institution building, in our conversation today I look forward to hearing what other opportunities we have to grow our cooperation.

Mr. Minister, thank you again for coming, and I invite you to make any opening comments to the press.


MINISTER OF DEFENSE BAKHODIR KURBANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Dearest Secretary of Defense, ladies and gentlemen, it is a big honor for me to be here in the United States with my official visit today. Dearest Secretary of Defense, I would like to express my gratitude and thank you personally for this visit because your hard work made it possible. Also, allow me to express my gratitude and thank all official parties involved in making this visit possible.

Dearest Secretary of Defense, you're absolutely correct in your remarks that today's meeting is an extension of the last meeting of our presidents, Mirziyoyev from Uzbekistan and Donald Trump from the United States. As you know, this meeting took place in May of 2018, and I would like to emphasize that today's meeting between secretary of defense and the minister of defense of Uzbekistan is a new page in the history of cooperation between two countries. We have a five-year plan to cooperate between the minister of defense and the DOD of the United States, and I'm certain that today's meeting will allow us to continue moving forward and work closely in that regard. I hope that today, you and I will be able to discuss in details all steps that we need to take in order to accomplish the common goal.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you one more time for your attention and for being here.