WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has opened a meeting in Washington with the foreign ministers from five ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia by calling for more cooperation to fight terrorism and to encourage economic growth.
The meeting, which began on August 3, comes as the United States tries to reengage in a region that is dominated by Russia and China, and that is facing increasing danger from political instability and Islamic terrorism.
The five countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- all have historical ties with Moscow.
All have also watched nervously as Russia moved in 2014 to annex Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, and stoked a conflict in eastern Ukraine.
In his opening remarks, Kerry said the talks would focus not only on violent extremism and economic growth, but also on the issue of environmental degradation.
Kerry and the ministers will also discuss five proposed projects developed by working groups following the first such meeting of Central Asian ministers in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in November 2015.
Following the meeting, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a lunch with the five ministers and leaders from prominent U.S. think tanks to share ideas about Central Asia’s development in the 21st century.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will then host a business forum with the Central Asian ministers and senior executives from major U.S. companies to discuss the opportunities and challenges of a connected and prosperous Central Asia.
The chamber will also host a cultural reception to celebrate the Central Asian states’ 25th anniversaries of independence from the Soviet Union, the region’s unique cultural heritage, and partnerships with U.S. government, business, academic and cultural institutions.