Donald Rumsfeld and Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan

Monday, October 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(Joint press availability with Islam Karimov, president of Uzbekistan)

Karimov: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say a few words about the negotiations that we've had with the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. We have discussed a lot of questions of mutual interest and it should be said it was a very open conversation, and we concentrated on the issues pertaining to counter-terrorism and elimination of the mechanism that we call terrorism. And I fully agree with the statement of Secretary Rumsfeld that terrorism exists well beyond the Islamic world. And I'm very satisfied by Secretary Rumsfeld's statement that today we're not fighting against any one single country, not against the Taliban for that matter, but we're fighting against camps and bases and infrastructure worldwide. And we welcome the decision by President Bush to allocate a humanitarian package of $320 million to the Afghan people who are in great need of this help. As far as Uzbekistan and its fight against terrorism are concerned, I would like to tell you the following.

The first point is Uzbekistan grants its airspace to American aircraft and helicopters. The second point is Uzbekistan is ready to upgrade and step up cooperation between special services for the exchange of intelligence information. Uzbekistan gives its permission and gives use of one of its airfields and its facilities for the United States' aircraft and helicopters as well as for personnel employed in search and rescue operations. At the moment there is work going on on the legal document, which will formulate the mutual commitments, and obligations, and guarantees.

And I would like to use this opportunity to say that we have no secret deals, no covert negotiations with the United States. As soon as this document has been formulated, it will be subject to public attention. It should be said that in the course of these three years, Uzbekistan has been witnessing the inhumane face of terror; therefore, we cannot afford standing aside, and we are taking part in this anti-terrorism operation that the international community called for. In conclusion, I want to tell you that of course I heard about Secretary Rumsfeld a lot before we met, but I am very happy to have this opportunity to meet him personally and I am very much impressed by his very measured and thoughtful attitude, very serious attitude to the range of questions that we've discussed.

Rumsfeld: Mr. President, thank you very much. We have just completed a fine discussion where I expressed the appreciation of President Bush to the president for the cooperation that they have offered so generously and spontaneously and their recognition of the importance of this worldwide effort with respect to countering terrorism. There is no question but that the threat that terrorists pose to the world is a real one. It's an immediate one. And it's one that can be dealt with only by taking the effort to the terrorists and to the countries that harbor them.

That being the case, it's going to take the cooperation of nations all across the world, and certainly the support that's been provided is deeply appreciated. I would underline the remarks made by the president. Not living in the immediate area here, needless to say, we benefit not only by the cooperation, but also by the insights and the perspectives that the president offered. And I'll just conclude by saying that the effort against terrorism as the president said is not against any country. It's not against any religion. It is purely and simply an effort to find the terrorists and see that they stop imposing the kind of damage that was imposed on the United States of America on September 11, and which has been imposed on a number of countries over a good many years. And again, I thank the president for his graciousness, and for receiving our delegation on such short notice.

Q: What has the United States offered to Uzbekistan in exchange for its cooperation in the battle against terrorism?

Rumsfeld: There have been no specific quid pro quos if that is what you are looking for. The two countries have met; the two countries have talked; the two countries have agreed that the problem of terrorism is a serious one. We have worked out a series of arrangements that make sense from both of our standpoints.

Karimov: I would like to emphasize that there has been no talk of quid pro quos so far. I would like the Russian journalists, in particular, to take this into account.

Q: Mr. President I would like to clarify on what you said. Is there just one Uzbek airfield that will be used by the United States in the anti-terrorist war?

Karimov: It is true that we have offered one airbase in Uzbekistan with all of its land facilities to deploy a limited number of transport, cargo aircraft and helicopters. We are against the usage of our territory for land operations against Afghanistan. We are against the use of the territory of Uzbezikstan for air strikes against Afghanistan. It is envisaged that this equipment will be used for humanitarian and search and rescue operations.

Q: Mr. President, how many American forces will be in your country? Which airfield have you offered? Did you agree that American Special Forces would be allowed to operate from Uzbekistan?

Karimov: I will start from the end of your question. Special Operations Forces will not be deployed in the territory of Uzbekistan. Let me repeat once again that all facilities that we are giving to the United States are to be used for humanitarian and search and rescue operations. We are not really interested in what sort of air personnel will be deployed. We leave this to the discretion of the U.S.

Q: Mr. President, you mentioned that the bilateral document will be signed. What sort of document is that?

Karimov: It will be a bilateral document which will formulate commitments and most importantly the guarantees given Uzbekistan so that Uzbekistan can defend its territory and its people. As for the guarantees themselves, the work is still in progress. It is too soon to formulate the provisions of the document.

Q: Since Uzbekistan is going to play a very important role in anti-terrorism operations, have you already conducted any negotiations with your neighbors and have you consulted Putin? Are you ready to go further than Russia in supplying help in these operations?

Karimov: I would like to refer to Mr. Putin's statements before he went to Germany. He said that Russia agreed with its allies in Central Asia access and the use of airspace and airfield facilities. That's my answer to your question. There are no contradictions in any of this. Or at least we believe there will be no contradictions.

Q: Mr. President, if you believe that the war on terrorism is important, why not allow American Special Forces to operate from your territory -- to go strike terrorists within Afghanistan.

Karimov: I will answer you briefly. We are not quite ready for this.

Q: What will be the changes in U.S. foreign policy following the attacks of September 11?

Rumsfeld: I think you would have to be able to predict the future to answer that. But first I would say that there was no question that the circumstances in the world have shifted. In a year or two or three I suspect that we will see considerably different arrangements than existed prior to September 11, because the event is of that magnitude, and exactly how that will play out is unclear. The relationships have been refashioned after every significant world event. Therefore, I am confident that they will be in this case, even though we can't predict exactly what they will be.

Q: Mr. President, you said a moment ago when asked about the use of your territory to launch U.S. Special Forces offenses that you are not quite ready yet. Does that mean that this option is still under consideration and that you may grant that permission in the future?

Karimov: My answer to that question is that the United States has special arrangements with a number of countries where U.S. military personnel are deployed. These bases in these countries have clear-cut legal status, a very clear purpose and they are to the mutual interest of both countries. First and foremost, the interest of Uzbekistan is determined by its geographical position based on its proximity to the territory, which harbors the camps and bases of terrorists. Without getting into further details, I will limit myself to the response that I made previously. Clearly, there are different points of view on land operations, which are being discussed at this time. But one has to say -- and this is my personal opinion one should think carefully about the possible consequences of foreign land operations in Afghanistan. To answer the question, if this (latter decision is made?), it is up to the strategic command of the United States -- that's my own view.

Rumsfeld: Mr. President, before I excuse myself and catch the airplane, if I may make a very brief statement. Interestingly, the interest of the United States in Uzbekistan, it should be well understood, precedes the events of September 11. Indeed, on my first visit to Brussels for a NATO meeting, I made it a point to have a bilateral meeting with the minister of defense here, of Uzbekistan, because of my interest and the interest of our country, and of course that was many months before the terrorist attack in New York and Washington. And the interest of the United States is of a long-standing relationship with this country and not something that is focused on the immediate problem alone. And with that, I'll excuse myself.

Karimov: I have been impressed by this latest remark of Secretary Rumsfeld, and it is with great satisfaction.

Thank you very much.