Ambassador John MacGregor, an erstwhile Canadian diplomat, heads the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s office in Uzbekistan. He arrived in late 2016, just as the country’s leadership changed from Islam Karimov to Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Uzbekistan launched its reforms. VOA's Navbahor Imamova sat down for a candid conversation with Ambassador MacGregor about Uzbekistan’s recent parliamentary and local council elections and the most pressing challenges facing this Central Asian country.
Full transcript, December 27, 2019:
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Thank you so much for having us this morning.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, thank you for coming by the OSCE office here.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Well, this morning in Tashkent... A lot is happening in the Uzbek capital...
Ambassador John MacGregor: Oh my goodness, it's been busy.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You are a busy man. The Uzbek government seems to be evaluating the elections...
Ambassador John MacGregor: Indeed, indeed.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: ... that took place on December 22. We know what the OSCE election observation mission concluded.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Right, right. Very clear, very specific. You know, we observe these following things that don't align with international standards and we observe these things which did. It's a very clear statement and that's one thing about the OSCE observers. They, they have this sort of standard of measurement and they, they are consistent across all of it.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's by the book.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's by the book.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Everywhere they go, they do it the same way everywhere. Some of them do as one.
... there's a lot of improvement and, and you can't deny that... there's always still further to go and, and that's one of the key elements of what's been going on. But we should not ignore the progress that's been made across this country in both, in governance and in society generally. But a lot of things have changed for the better.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: As one Uzbek official described it: It's quite a nerdy evaluation. You've been here now since, I believe, the summer of 2016.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So you've seen the country's journey, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Indeed.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How are you evaluating yourself aside from the observation missions conclusions?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, the first thing I'd like to say is that there's a lot of improvement and, and you can't deny that. I mean there's, there's always still further to go and, and that's one of the key elements of what's been going on. But we should not ignore the progress that's been made across this country in both, in governance and in society generally. But a lot of things have changed for the better... And it's been a really interesting time to be here and kind of exciting in a way, really too.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: The election campaign... When you arrived in Tashkent, when you started your work in Uzbekistan as the OSCE Project Co-ordinator, parties were almost invisible. We knew that they were parties - official parties - but now they seem to exist. They seem to have positions. They seem to have leaders and lots of followers, obviously. How did you see the election campaign?
Ambassador John MacGregor: You really saw the party leaders come into their own this time. You know, in the past you wouldn't have known who a party leader was if you almost ran into him or her on the street. But now you, you see them, they're there. They are personalities, they are strong presences. They've had their debates and they actually were starting to poke at the other. Well, I don't like that platform. And I don't like your platform on that subject.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: They all have different characters actually. They're kind of, you know, unique in their own ways. We had a lot of criticism during the campaign. I mean, I've been here now since early December and I think the party leaders are the most criticized folks around. And it's very interesting, in our conversations with them, they are quite candid about their own performance. I mean some of them have told me that... I don't know. I'm not a politician. I've never really been a political leader. So I am learning as we go. So the entire country seem to be going through some kind of a learning process and that the journey is on, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Absolutely.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: That's where the OSCE then comes in as an assistance organization, as a political support organization. What do you think you could do to help this learning lesson to get stronger, wider, and deeper?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, let me just go back very quickly to mention that the current Election Code is something that we were very much a part of. So we worked very closely with the parliament and the Central Election Commission in particular to, to review what was wrong with the old code. And then we also got the OSCE ODIHR involved. And together we created this new election code, which was eventually agreed to by the Central Election Commission. But they're on the adjustments.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: They should be very proud of that actually.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah. And I think they should be, I think there was a lot of work went into it and once there was a draft, we helped the Central Election Commission and the parliament hold a series of meetings around the country to introduce it, to talk about it, and to also look for additional comments and improvements. And many of them were taken into account.
So that the key element is that the 23 pieces of old legislation were abolished by this new code that's highly significant. So now we have a legal basis for this new, for running elections now. Now we have to start thinking about how we can do some practical improvements. So giving the party leaders some, some things...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Training?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, I won't say training and education, but still we say get the benefit of other experience. So let them see how party leaders do election campaigns in Western Europe or Canada, and the U.S., other places where you know, there's some really strong parties that, that have had some good success and they can also learn this from some failures of other party leaders. There's been quite a few of those to look around at.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah.
Ambassador John MacGregor: So that, that's the party leaders. We also have to start thinking about how do we educate the people of this country to learn about their involvement in and really in democracy and how they see elections and now they need to work in the election process themselves. So what do they do on election day? What do they do before election day? Do they have the responsibility to follow the campaign and look at the different party platforms and think, okay, I kind of liked that one the best and I liked that one the least and where am I going to put my vote?
We also have to start thinking about how do we educate the people of this country to learn about their involvement in and really in democracy and how they see elections and now they need to work in the election process themselves.
And this is important in a democracy too. Of course, if democracy is of the people, we have to think about how we, what kind of government would we want? What do we want our government to do? What do we want our, and which one of the party leaders and the parties generally have the kind of platform that's closest to what we want as individuals, as families or even as extended families. And so party discussions, this political discussion should become part of the fabric of society here as they should be in any country.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And we see that happening actually.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah... It's starting to happen.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah and you know, what we see is that the Uzbek people are starting to take these parties seriously. So then you know, and raising expectations, right? They want them to do better. They want them to really offer the solutions that they want to hear. So they want them to become sort of problem solving machines eventually. But there's a long way to go.
Ambassador John MacGregor: There's one other element that we haven't discussed and that's the person between the party leadership and the people, which is the rep, the nomination, the nominated person for their district or constituents and, and how do we want them to act? What, what's their responsibility in this process? So they need to be out introducing themselves to everybody in their district. I'm, I'm representing whichever party they are and these are my platforms and they need to do that as well. There needs to be this grassroots effort from them.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And right now that thing that you're describing is in a very primitive process, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Indeed, they have some work to do.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So what we also heard a lot during this election campaign and the aftermath of the elections is that, you know, perhaps still, a lot was staged a lot was orchestrated. You know, the level of trust in the system is very low. And the Uzbek government hears that more than ever and people are more vocal with that criticism than ever. Did you feel as a diplomat here, as someone who's in close touch with both of the authorities and with the rest of the international community here, that any part of it was staged, orchestrated and to some extent, what were they trying to control?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah, there's two factors at work here. The first factor is you have to kind of remember what elections have taken place in this country since.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: The election record?
So the past is sometimes a predictor of what happens in the future or today.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah. So you think okay now, what have they done in the past? So the past is sometimes a predictor of what happens in the future or today. So there's an element of those people who think, well, okay, what are they doing and what's going to be different this time? So they're, they're a little skeptical, skeptical at the outset. And the other element is this, there is a lot of pressure on the Central Election Commission and anybody who's worried about these elections to get it right. And so perhaps there was more controlled than there should've been.
And, and people who were maybe getting involved because they thought it wasn't being done right and they shouldn't have been involved. See cause really it should be up to the Central Election Commission and the district election commissions and the and the lower, election commissions.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And the parties.
Ambassador John MacGregor: And the parties. And so nobody else should be involved. The executive authority should not be involved.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: The administration.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Administrative effort should not... I mean they provide a place and they give it to the election commission representatives and say okay this building or this part of the building is yours for the election. But then that should be the end of their involvement. And I, and I think too many people were trying to get involved.
I think too many people were trying to get involved.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So you know, we kept on mentioning and others, the members of the international media and observers, Uzbekistan watchers, both on social media and on the mainstream media that this is a democratic test. This is a reform test for Uzbekistan. Did you feel like the Uzbek government felt that that kind of challenged, did you see any efforts by the Uzbek government to kind of live up to that? Like, yes, this is truly a reformed test for us. We have to show something. We have to demonstrate something.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yep, yep.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: They did?
... it should not be a pass/fail. We'll see. Here's the point. I mean, nobody's going to get it right that first time or the second time or whatever.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Definitely, no question, but it should not be a pass or fail. We'll see. Here's the point. I mean, nobody's going to get it right that first time or the second time or whatever.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You didn't see it that way?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, I know because I have the benefit of...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You know what's happening in the background?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah. And so there was certainly a, a feeling on the part of those in authority who said, we really, this is a very, very important election for this country. We really need to get it right, so let's do our best to make it happen. And I really felt that very, very strongly.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Do you feel like this was a test for President Mirziyoyev?
Ambassador John MacGregor: No, I think he established what the parameters of the reform need to be. You know, this action strategy that he, sort of helped developed, or sort of led the development of it back at the beginning of 2017 that is a very comprehensive document, and it's very closely related to OSCE commitments so that sort of sets out the parameters and then really it's up to the rest of us and I, and I say us, because I'm part of this international presence right now and I'm part of it too. So it should be up to, all the rest of us, those in leadership positions in government and society and people like me to take those parameters and put them into action, put them, make these reforms take place.
[Mirziyoyev] established what the parameters of the reform need to be.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So in a way you also feel responsible to make sure that the reform agenda is executed?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Absolutely. If I'm, if I'm in this country right now...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You have a role to play.
Ambassador John MacGregor: I have a role to play and I feel that very strongly.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And, you know, at times, it seems that the members of the international community, the OSCE, the United Nations and then the embassies... Both Western and those of some other major countries seem to be supporting President Mirziyoyev and his reform agenda unconditionally... You constantly remind to the Uzbek people and the world that Uzbekistan is on the right path. Why is that?
I have a role to play and I feel that very strongly.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, I'll go back to the action strategy that he led the development of, and I mentioned that that action strategy is really closely related to OSCE commitments. So speaking for myself, I looked at that and I think...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: This is exactly what we want you to do.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah, I mean where else in the OSCE world today - that's the other 56 of the 57 participating States of OSCE - where do we see that? Nowhere. Is there anything like that anywhere else? And nor has there been anything like that in the last generation, you see? And so this is so important. How can I not support something that is, that are so closely related to OSCE commitments? I have to cheer and say, let's move it. Let's do it. Let's do it tomorrow.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: We hear the same thing from the United Nations and it's quite impressive, you know? But what has it taken so far for you to convince the Uzbek system, the Uzbek administration to follow those commitments? You know looking at Uzbekistan's record, that for the longest time they refused, at least they did not follow those commitments, right? They justified not following them. But now they are on that path. What are you doing to them that they are following them?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, you know, that it's hard to know because when I first arrived here, it was in the final months of the first president. And so I know what this country was like before that. And so I was aware of what was going on. I knew it was difficult to, to try and get any movement on implementing those OSCE commitments. And so when there was a change of factional leadership and President Mirziyoyev took office, there was, you know, kind of, okay, let's see what's going to happen. Let's see what happens next. And, and so almost within the first couple of months we see this national election strategy and I'm thinking, okay, let's have a look. So you go through the book and you go wow. Listen, so how, how do I help make that happen?
That's really the question I've been asking myself and so with, with my team here, and this is really important, the team that I have working for me here, have you seen it?
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Oh yeah, it's larger, it's expanding.
I've never experienced any problems.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Oh yes. But there're some real veterans, some of the national staff have been here more than 15 years or so. They know this country very well... But they also fight. Yeah, absolutely. And they know the OSCE commitments. And so the team has been very, very much a part of suggesting different practical projects that we can implement that will help various parts of the government and society adopt certain of the commitments that are related to the action strategy.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How often do you get out of Tashkent?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Oh, at least once a month.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And is it easy for you to travel as a diplomat? You have no restriction?
Ambassador John MacGregor: I've never, not even in the first months after I came... I've never experienced any problems.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Do you inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that you're about to do that? There is a protocol to follow, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: In the last three years I haven't felt any problem at all. And generally my travel out of the capital is related to some particular project activity. So there's a notification that we're undertaking series of project activities. That's an ongoing process where we're constantly updating them as to what we're doing.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You obviously have a long list of goals, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yep.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: What are the priorities right now in Uzbekistan? One of them we know... help the country learn how to do democratic elections.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yes.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Which obviously it's a long journey. It's a lot of work, but what other priorities do you have right now?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Let me suggest some. Some key priorities. One is corruption.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Deep.
Ambassador John MacGregor: It's deep. It's been in practice here for many, many decades, centuries.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Something that everybody mentions as the first, number one problem.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah. So, but we work on that. We try to identify parts where we can have an impact. And so we, we do a number of things. You know, we, for example, we, we had a huge business event, where we talked about business integrity standards because business is part of it as well. So they need to have their internal standards about how they conduct business internationally and nationally. And so, you know, how do we do that so that we're not contributing to corruption and we have to remind people of specific problems of corruption. So let's just say that you have a doctor who maybe didn't do as well as they could have on their actual tests and that sort of thing. And then, I mean, we actually have a video clip that we helped make and you see it on TV and it shows a doctor who bribed to get into this position and then he's on, he then he's the emergency doctor operating on, on a member of the family that he bribed.
You can't have economic growth if you, if you can't convince investors that they have a meaningful, proper justice system to protect their investment, if they're going to bring some money into this country to create jobs and to help support this country.
You know what I mean? How is it that those things come back to get you... or the policeman who takes a bribe for letting somebody go speeding. And then the next thing you know, it's the policeman's child who's killed next to the school because someone was speeding. Those are specific videos that we've made to try and hit home about how this impacted individuals, so let's go through. Another element that's really, really important is justice and rule of law. And as the president himself has said, there's a [link] between economic growth and rule of law and justice and human rights. You can't have economic growth if you, if you can't convince investors that they have a meaningful, proper justice system to protect their investment, if they're going to bring some money into this country to create jobs and to help support this country. So how do we get that justice and rule of law?
So we've been helping with the, the new supreme judges school. We, we helped them show them some opportunities to learn from other countries about what their curriculum should consist of. And we, we helped them see the ideal that judges should be training judges. So it shouldn't be the justice ministry, should be judges training other judges. That helps to create truly independent judiciary. And in the office of the Prosecutor General, we help their academy with training related to justice and the rule of law. So these are also very, very important.
So if you, if you tackle corruption, if you work on justice rule of law, and if you make it possible for every citizen, every business of this, in this country to have a meaningful, true justice system, if they've had problems, whether it's with their business or problems as individuals, then you get people to understand that yes, I do have some rights and, and the system is going to support me as an individual because I'm, I'm right. Not because I've done something else on the side. This is really critical.
So if you, if you tackle corruption, if you work on justice rule of law, and if you make it possible for every citizen, every business of this, in this country to have a meaningful, true justice system, if they've had problems, whether it's with their business or problems as individuals, then you get people to understand that yes, I do have some rights and, and the system is going to support me as an individual because I'm, I'm right.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: There is a lot of cynicism about the role of international organizations, as you know, not just here in Uzbekistan, but around the world. And I ask this from every member of the international community. How do you deal with that as you deal with the Uzbek government? Because there are a lot of cynical people in this system too, right? They look at you and say, you know what your organization has been around for a long time and we have our own, you know, history and record. I know what you can really do and what you can't do. So how do you respond to that? And also how do you explain to the Uzbek public, in general, things that they should expect from you and they should not like things that you're not going to be do.
Ambassador John MacGregor: What can I tell you what I can't, okay.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Right, exactly.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Actually this is a very important thing that you just mentioned. How do you, I call it building confidence in us. Building confidence in me, okay. So from the minute I arrived, I'm very clear about what we can do and what we can't do and we actually created, we've created in the last few years, this is called criteria to be met for project consideration. There are 11 items on this list and it starts with things like the mandate of the field operation, the memorandum of understanding. What we have to do is implement OSCE commitments. So if somebody says, oh, we want to buy a bunch of cars for the Ministry of Health...
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, that's not...
Ambassador John MacGregor: I'm sorry, there's no OSCE commitment that said that was okay. So they have to be national priorities. So that means generally priorities of the Uzbek government, but also of society generally. And then we have something within the OSCE rules. So that's important. We have communication consultation with others and that sort of thing and we want it balanced across all three dimensions of OSCE.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Values, I see.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Precisely. Now here's, here's the thing. This is fully transparent. Okay, so we share this with everybody and anybody and it's available in Russian and English, so it's easily understandable and we're really up front with this. Anybody who wants to do.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And the realization of this is shared.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah. Yeah.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's not just you, but the party also.
Ambassador John MacGregor: And so this is, this is the first thing we do. And then the second thing you do is every one of us internationals who comes to this country has to recognize that we're not in our own country. We are in Uzbekistan. So we have to learn about this country. We have to learn about the customs and the culture and traditions and history and food and language.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, which you speak quite well, by the way, very impressive.
Ambassador John MacGregor: So yeah, but this is so important because if we don't do, if I don't understand all of that, how can I help to suggest projects?
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: To connect, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: To connect with this country. Yes, I have a team of really amazing national staff as I've said, but they, they're truly spectacular people. And so it's my job really to support them. But I can't do that the way I should unless I really understand. And, and as I often say, now I have some Uzbekistan in my heart. I really do.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And you're originally from Canada...
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, Canada has a good record of, of multi-lateralism and embracing people from around the world. I mean there's a good Uzbekistan community and near Toronto you know,
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, absolutely. Also in British Columbia.
Ambassador John MacGregor: In British Columbia too, where I'm from. So these are big things for, I mean, Canada is a good example for a lot of other countries in the world to embrace the idea that we can all live together. I mean, you look at the various communities in my home city of Vancouver, there's an ethnic Chinese community and, and a South Asian community in various nationalities. And there's people from Europe and people from Africa and South America and the Caribbean. They're all living in harmony.
Uzbekistan and Canada have almost the same population. We are both very much influenced by a large, fairly close neighbor who has a, a language that influences us and the, the movie culture and TV and news.
I mean, our neighbors, wherever you live, I mean in our own street there's, there's at least eight or nine different nationalities right in our own street. And we all, we're all friendly and, and, and, and share experiences. It's great. And there's other similarity. I mean, Uzbekistan and Canada have almost the same population. We are both very much influenced by a large, fairly close neighbor who has a language that influences us and the, the movie culture and TV and news. We're very much influenced in that way. Both of us are by our different neighbors. So there's a lot of similarities there, you know.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: One last question. You worked in Kyrgyzstan before coming to Uzbekistan and we know that the OSCE is quite active across the region. When you came to Uzbekistan, you worked to adjust the program to the country?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Oh goodness, yeah.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: What is special about the OSCE's approach to Uzbekistan now? What have you done to really kind of make it relevant to today's challenges?
Ambassador John MacGregor: I mean, everything we do is country-specific. So yes, we bring ideas from elsewhere. So we look at we, we as our, as the OSCE staff here, we try to think about what concepts might be good off. Yeah. And we pull in from all 56 of the other participating states at various times for various different topics and subjects. So that's, that's important and that's significant and I think that's probably the best way to handle this kind of thing where you, you want to reach out. This is one other thing though, and this is something else I often say, my job is not only to bring foreign experiences here, but take the Uzbekistan experience and share it outside. So let me just give you a tip. I mean I love talking about the homeless system because it's a unique Uzbekistan system where you have these neighborhoods that are tightly knit and they really, because there's a self government part of that, you know, people look after each other more than you see in most countries.
... everything we do is country-specific. So yes, we bring ideas from elsewhere.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: But you know, a lot of Uzbeks resent that system.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Sometimes I think somebody knows too much of their business.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: That and also, they feel like it's a control system. It says it's a control management system, which essentially stifles their individual freedoms, the private rights and you know, all of these things. But, but yes, you're right, it's unique in many ways and it's something that the Uzbek government has tried to promote for a long time. Do you still see the Mahalla committees as powerful bodies?
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah, to some extent. I don't think they have as much power as they did a generation, two generations ago, but you know the history of the Mahalla system goes back centuries. It's been around for a long time.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: That sense of community.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yes, that sense of community and there are parts of the world that could learn from that example, I think, where they don't have any community at all. They exist in a city and they don't know their neighbors, they don't know the people around them. And I think that's a real shame because there's much to be gained from knowing who is around you and supporting each other. This is the key, supporting each other in the neighborhood so that everybody, it benefits, it lifts everybody up, you know?
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You travel to Europe a lot, obviously to Vienna (OSCE headquarters).
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So when they ask you a very simple question about how things are in Uzbekistan, what do you tell them nowadays?
Ambassador John MacGregor: The brief answer is things are coming along. There's still a lot further to go. But there's been a lot of progress in that and that's what's important. You know, there's still many things to be done. I mean, we're still, 2019 marks the middle year of the action strategy. There's still many of the priorities that need some effort.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And you mentioned your commitments. You are committed to hold the administration, President Mirziyoyev, accountable, right?
Ambassador John MacGregor: But it's not me, the OSCE says that any OSCE participating state is accountable to every other participating state for implementing OSCE commitments. So the other 56 should be looking at this one and in the, if it was Canada, the other 56 look at Canada. I mean they're all accountable to each other. So it's a system where every week in Vienna, there's an opportunity for every one of the 57 to stand up and say, we heard about such and such that happened in your country. Why aren't you honoring the OSCE commitments?
... any OSCE participating state is accountable to every other participating state for implementing OSCE commitments.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Uzbeks know that they've haven't followed the international obligations for a long time. And now pretty much every international organization holds them on to do that. And many Uzbek diplomats tell us that we're very much committed. We're very serious about our international obligations. We're not running away from them.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Yeah, they're facing up there.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You see that's genuine?
Ambassador John MacGregor: The dialogue is there. See, this is what's happening now. But that didn't happen three or four years ago, four years ago, sorry. There was no dialogue at that time. There was no, no honest dialogue about, yeah, we need to do this and this and this and this. Because they would just say, we're not talking about that. There was a weird, we won't talk about that. Sorry. No discussion. Now there's dialogue. I mean, the, the discussions we're having after the election, just as an example, there's a lot more discussion now than there was in the election in December 2016 and that's the one I was here for. I'm sure before that there was even less discussion. The point is now there's a lot of engagement and lot of dialogue, which was not present before. And if you don't have this dialogue, if you're not willing to even discuss what the issues are, that will never be mentioned.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Okay. Well, major difference as you see. Thank you so much.
Ambassador John MacGregor: It's been my pleasure. It's great to talk to you. Thanks for taking the time.
Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's good to be here in Tashkent engaging you and others. Thank you.
Ambassador John MacGregor: Well, thanks for your efforts. Thank you.