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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Very pleased to have Foreign Minister Norov here from Uzbekistan.  It’s good to have you at the State Department.  We are pursuing our Strategic Partnership Dialogue, which I’m very pleased about.  That’ll take place tomorrow.  But a very good and important opportunity for the two of us to compare notes on the many challenges that we’re facing together.

I reiterate, as always, the commitment of the United States to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Uzbekistan.  I really want to applaud Uzbekistan for reaching a border demarcation agreement with Kyrgyzstan.  I think this sends a powerful signal to many in the region, and beyond, about the importance of possibilities with diplomacy for resolving these issues.  And I also appreciate the work that’s being done on reforms, including on religious freedom, on forced labor – and, of course, we have much to discuss, including with regard to Afghanistan.

But Vladimir, it’s wonderful to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER NOROV:  Well, thank you.  Good afternoon, everyone.  First of all, I’d like to thank you, Secretary Blinken, for your warm welcome of our delegation at State Department.  This year, Uzbekistan and the United States are celebrating 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 20 years of our strategic partnership.

Over the years, our cooperation has grown substantially across all areas of our bilateral and regional cooperation within C5+1.  We appreciating the United States administration continued support for president of Uzbekistan reforms agenda, aimed at ensuring good governance; rule of law; human rights; as well as maintaining peace and advancing sustainable development in Central Asia.

We are looking forward to continue our productive discussion today and Strategic Partnership Dialogue tomorrow over our shared priorities for expanding bilateral relations in areas trade and investment, science and technology, education, and human capacity-building.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks very much. Thanks, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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