At a press conference in Tashkent on Wednesday, the head of the U.S. State Department Antony Blinken stressed the need to diversify trade and deepen relations among Central Asian countries.

When asked by correspondent about the partnership between the U.S. and the countries of the region, Mr. Blinken said: “Every single day we’re engaged to build the strongest possible partnerships with all of the Central Asian countries. And it starts with our enduring support for their sovereignty, for their independence, for their territorial integrity, and our determination that each be able to determine their own futures consistent with those principles.”

He noted that each Central Asian state has a long history of relations with different countries, and each country is looking to “multiply and deepen” partnerships with other countries around the world. “And in that, the United States wants to be a steadfast partner and a partner that works with them to create new opportunities for people in this region,” said the State Secretary.

Anthony Blinken stated that the U.S. is well aware of the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the people of Central Asia.

“The immediate consequences have been, in one way or another, a rise in energy and food prices, and then, more generally, inflation. Now, there is a simple reason for that. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has tried to weaponize energy in his effort to subjugate Ukraine, and in weaponizing energy and trying to hold it back, deny it from different places. That has contributed to rising prices. We have worked very hard to make sure that there was enough energy on world markets to keep prices down. We have come directly to the assistance of the countries that were directly targeted by Putin using the energy weapon, but these effects, again, have been felt here in Central Asia as well, and we’re working to mitigate them.”

“Food — Putin also weaponized food. He blocked the breadbasket of the world, Ukraine, from exporting a lot of its grain and food products. And it was only because of the very good work by the United Nations and Türkiye that we were able to establish this Black Sea grain corridor that allowed grain and other products to come out of Ukraine and to reach world markets”, said the head of diplomatic mission.

He also addressed the reasons for sanctions and export controls on Russia, which are imposed not only by the U.S., but also many other countries.

“It's not as if we woke up one day and said, 'Oh, let’s impose sanctions and export controls on Russia.' The reason for those sanctions and export controls is because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And countries came together both to support Ukraine in defending itself from the Russian aggression, but also to try to impose costs and pressure on Russia to get it to change its conduct, to stop the aggression, and to make it more difficult for Russia to continue that aggression. So that is what this is all about.”

Antony Blinken noted that the U.S. is monitoring compliance with sanctions by Central Asian countries.

“We're looking at this very closely. We appreciate the work that countries have done to help prevent the evasion of sanctions, because Russia is looking for ways to nonetheless acquire products and otherwise engage in sanctioned activity. So we are working closely with governments throughout the region, helping them understand exactly what the sanctions require and, as necessary, looking to see what we can do to mitigate the negative effects that they are feeling.”

Secretary of State said the U.S. is also helping the region diversify trade and build new partnerships and relations with other countries.

“So they are not dependent on any one country or any one source for trade and investment, and at the same time to increase trade and investment within Central Asia itself. There is a very strong potential market here. And the more connectivity we have among the countries of Central Asia, the more collaboration we have, the stronger that market is going to be, the more investment it is going to attract from outside of Central Asia,” said Mr. Blinken.