U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told a meeting of citizens in the Tajik capital that Washington strongly supports human rights in their country, Radio Liberty's Tajik Service reports.
She also pledged U.S. commitment to boosting trade and economic fortunes in post-Soviet Central Asia's poorest country through a "New Silk Road" project. Such efforts, she said, are aimed in part at providing incentives to encourage Tajikistan's workforce to find jobs in the country instead of leaving the country in search of migrant jobs, Asia-Plus reported.
Clinton made the remarks on October 22, the second day of her first official visit to Tajikistan, which will be followed by a trip to Uzbekistan. Both are key partners in overland efforts to supply international troops in Afghanistan.
"We strongly support the right of Tajik citizens to receive a decent education, to own land, to enjoy a free and independent media, to participate equally in the political process, and enjoy all the universal rights that should be available to any man or woman," Clinton told the group.
Clinton went on to emphasize U.S. respect for religious reedom: "We strongly believe that fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom, should be protected for all people, young and old, men and women."
Clinton is also holding talks with Tajik leaders focusing upon the battle against drug trafficking and Islamic militancy in the region.
"We want to help increase economic opportunity here in Tajikistan so that so many of your people do not have to leave home to find work, that there can be a flourishing economy right here," Clinton said.
"Now we know that won't happen overnight -- barriers to trade have to come down, foreign investment must be attracted," Clinton said, "so the United States is supporting what we are calling the New Silk Road, a network of transit and trade connections to open up new markets for raw materials and energy and agricultural products that can be traded among all the nations in your region."
After Dushanbe, Clinton was expected to travel on to neighboring Uzbekistan. Before arriving in Tajikistan on October 21, Clinton visited Afghanistan and Pakistan to urge increased cooperation against militants responsible for attacks on U.S.-led targets in Afghanistan.