Shavkat Mirziyoyev will meet with Donald Trump at the White House on May 16.
President Donald Trump met with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoy Wednesday and reportedly pitched the world leader on expanding press freedoms and human rights, senior administration officials told the New York Times. Trump cupped his hands along the side of his mouth, leaned toward his counterpart and said, "I agree 100 percent".
The Uzbekistan leader came to power in 2016 following the death of the country's longtime autocratic ruler. Uzbekistan also previously provided a logistical supply route for US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces into Afghanistan. Since the May 7 release of journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov, there are no journalists in Uzbek jails for the first time in two decades, according to CPJ research. "We urge USA leaders meeting with the Uzbek president this week to prioritize this issue".
Mirziyoyev has reshuffled the government, removing many old-guard officials, most recently the chief of the nation's national security agency.
Uzbekistan's leader says his country and the US are developing a "new era" of cooperation.
Mirziyoyev has sought to maintain friendly ties with Russian Federation while moving to expand ties with the West.
"I think that the discussion would be missing an important element if USA officials did not raise the issue of what's happening, in terms of opening up the media - both acknowledging some of the positive steps in the right direction that we've seen, but encouraging further such movement", the official told reporters on a conference call. His trip to Washington was expected to offer clues about how far he's ready to go to open up to the U.S.