Remarks Before Meeting With Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the outset of a bilateral meeting with the President and Foreign Minister Rasit Meredov. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. President, thank you very much for your welcome. It’s a pleasure for me to be able to be here and be the – I think I’m the first Secretary of State to visit since 1992 when Secretary Jim Baker came. That is far too long a period of time between visits, and I very much hope that in the next year and a bit it will be possible for me to come back and have more time to be able to see your country and continue these conversations.

But I want to thank Foreign Minister Meredow and I want to thank you for sending (inaudible) Washington two weeks ago – the meetings that took place with our teams – our teams took place two weeks ago – were very helpful in laying out an agenda with respect to economic cooperation, human rights, security, stability, and I appreciate the readiness that you’ve expressed to put those issues on the table today when we have our discussion. And I agree; I think that talking about regional security is critical right now.

I want to thank you for your country’s support for the UN Security Council efforts and, I hope, the memorandum of understanding that we will sign shortly regarding strategic security and our cooperation on that. And we appreciate very much your commitment to it, and I want to honor your 20th anniversary of your neutrality. I know it’s a very important event, a very important moment for you. Regrettably, I previously committed to be in Paris for the negotiations on climate change, and so I would have loved to be here. If something changes and we get that agreement done before that, I’d be delighted, then, to come and join you.

We just had a very constructive meeting that took place in Samarkand, and I thank you for instructing the foreign minister to join in that. I know that a number of countries were questioning whether or not we could be constructive in the context of five countries sitting together in Central Asia. I think it was surprisingly positive. I think your foreign minister felt the same way. We were able to talk about connectivity, about economic development, borders, security, and created a working group that will follow up on that meeting in a way that I think will be very, very helpful to our countries and particularly to the region.

Energy, needless to say, is a critical subject when we talk about economic development and the economics of the future. It’s something that I would like to talk about with you. I also look forward to having a good conversation about the issues of the human dimensions that you mentioned. I think that we can do more together, frankly, to be able to help your people be able to develop certain skillsets necessary in this modern economy and challenging world that we live in. And obviously, Afghanistan – you live in a very interesting region and there are a lot of concerns that we need to work on together.

So I look forward to this conversation and I’m grateful to you for understanding why this particular meeting had to be a little bit brief beginning of our renewal of our conversation. But I can promise you we have a lot to talk about and I look forward to our teams continuing to work very closely together.