U.S. President Biden stresses ‘Territorial Integrity’ in historic meeting with central Asian leaders

U.S. President Joe Biden convened a historic meeting with the leaders of five Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 19. This gathering, known as the C5+1, included Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhammedov and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

President Biden reaffirmed the importance of “territorial integrity” for these five former Soviet republics, which Russia considers its sphere of influence. He highlighted the shared commitment to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, emphasizing their significance in today’s global context.

Biden stressed that standing together based on these principles enhances global security and stability. He characterized the meeting as “historic” and underscored the strengthening cooperation between the United States and the Central Asian nations.

The cooperative efforts between the U.S. and the Central Asian countries will encompass various areas, including enhanced counterterrorism cooperation, increased U.S. security funding for the region, the establishment of new business connections with the U.S. private sector and the launch of a C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialogue. This dialogue aims to harness Central Asia’s abundant mineral resources, especially critical minerals essential for high-tech industries.

In his earlier address to the UNGA, President Biden expressed concerns about Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, emphasizing that such actions threaten the fundamental principles of sovereignty among nations.

Prior to the C5+1 summit, human rights organizations had called on Biden to prioritize human rights concerns in his discussions with Central Asian leaders. All five nations in the C5+1 partnership have faced documented allegations of human rights abuses, including crackdowns on political opposition, independent journalism, civil society and democratic institutions.

A White House statement following the meeting revealed that President Biden welcomed the perspectives of his counterparts on ways to enhance the sovereignty, resilience and prosperity of Central Asian nations. Additionally, he advocated for continued support for civil society and women’s economic empowerment initiatives while urging a new C5+1 focus on integrating disability rights across all sectors of society.