The U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Ambassador Alice Wells, has urged Central Asian nations to deepen their cooperation to boost economic opportunities and strengthen security in the region, according to Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service

Ambassador Wells told RFE/RL in an interview on January 7 that Washington remains committed to working with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan through the so-called C5+1 format.

"I think there is a tremendous potential for C5 cooperation both within Central Asian countries but also with the United States and with the neighborhood," Wells said.

Answering a question regarding Tajik Foreign Ministry's ongoing reluctance to grant full accreditation to correspondents from RFE/RL's Tajik Service in Dushanbe, locally known as Radio Ozodi, Ambassador Wells said “we strongly believe that Radio Liberty [RFE/RL] reporters should receive a timely manner.”

“We believe the role of independent media is critical in the development of any country... and particularly as Tajikistan goes into an election cycle with parliamentary and presidential elections [in 2020], having an active and open debates is particularly important,” she added.

The Foreign Ministry of Tajikistan on October 31 failed to fully grant the accreditation requests of 18 RFE/RL journalists and staff members whose credentials have been withheld by the ministry or were set to expire on November 1.

The ministry granted partial accreditation to seven journalists -- six for six months each and one for three months -- while continuing to withhold it from 11 others.

“In my meetings today, I emphasized the importance of an independent media, including full accreditation for Radio Ozodi employees.  It’s important that the Tajik people have access to independent media outlets such as Asia-Plus, Akhbor, and Radio Ozodi," Wells said.

At a press conference with journalists prior to her interview with RFE/RL, Alice Wells said that the issue of press freedom was among the issues she discussed with top Tajik officials.