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Senior U.S. Diplomat Headed To Uzbekistan For Talks

Alice Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs (file photo)

A senior U.S. State Department official is scheduled to travel to Uzbekistan this week for meetings with officials in Tashkent.

The State Department said in a January 29 statement that Alice Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, will hold talks with senior Uzbek officials "to review progress" under President Shavkat Mirziyoev's "reform agenda."

It was not immediately clear from the statement when Wells would land in Tashkent. The State Department said that during her January 30-February 2 trip, she would travel first to London for an event and meetings with British officials before traveling on to Uzbekistan.

The State Department said that while in Tashkent, Wells and Uzbek officials would also discuss "international and regional affairs, as well as economic and security cooperation."

Mirziyoev has been seeking warmer ties with other countries, including neighbors and the United States, since he came to power after longtime autocratic leader Islam Karimov died in 2016.

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov earlier this month met in Washington with top U.S. officials, including White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, the Uzbek ministry said.

Mirziyoev and U.S. President Donald Trump have met twice while in office -- in Saudi Arabia in May and during the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

They spoke by telephone last month, with the White House saying the two leaders discussed "Uzbekistan's role in Central Asia, including its support for President Trump's South Asia strategy and United States efforts in Afghanistan."

Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are involved in a war against militants that began after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

Forces of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) fighting in Iraq and Syria since 2014 have included Uzbeks and others from ex-Soviet Central Asia.

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