(Washington, DC--June 25, 2004) In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, U.S. Ambassador Tracey Ann Jacobson said that her government believes that "engagement, rather than isolation, is the best way to encourage development" in that Central Asian country. The interview, recorded at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat by RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, was broadcast as to Turkmenistan on June 22 and 23.
Ambassador Jacobson, in response to questions concerning criticisms about Turkmenistan's record on human rights issues ranging from freedom of movement to religious freedom and the freedoms of speech, press, demonstration and assembly, asserted that progress has been achieved on several of these issues. Ambassador Jacobson put special emphasis on the Turkmen government's decision in January 2004 to lift requirements on exit visas and recent government actions repealing criminal penalties for religious activity and registering two groups of the Seventh Day Adventist and Bahai faiths as able to openly worship.
At the same time, Ambassador Jacobson noted that the U.S. government raises concerns about human rights issues in Turkmenistan "not only bilaterally, but also in multilateral fora like the United Nations and OSCE." She also noted, during the interview, the fact that "freedom of movement and religion have a special place for Americans," and that her government hopes "to see more progress" in both areas.
A complete transcript of the Turkmen Service's interview with Ambassador Jacobson will appear in the June 28 issue of their online publication "Turkmen Report," available at www.rferl.org/reports/turkmen-report
RFE/RL's Turkmen Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Turkmenistan, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, mediumwave and satellite broadcasts. Turkmen Service programming is also available via the Internet, at www.rferl.org
and at the service's website www.azatradio.org