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A top official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has praised what he calls a "new readiness" by Turkmen officials to "engage and cooperate" with his organization, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Janez Lenarcic, the director of the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), gave details of his visit to Ashgabat last week in an interview with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on June 21.

He said that ODIHR has proposed cooperation with Turkmenistan in such spheres as the legislative framework for elections, the law on public organizations, the development of civil society in general, and human rights education.

Specifically, ODIHR has offered to make available to Turkmen authorities a translation into Russian of a compendium of good practices on human rights education jointly authored by ODIHR, the UN, and the Council of Europe.

Lenarcic said he was encouraged that his offers of assistance were well-received but stressed that ODIHR's role is to advise and that implementation of its recommendations and proposals is the responsibility of individual OSCE member states, in this case Turkmenistan:

"We don't implement together with them. We assist. We offer the examples. We offer the expertise. We offer the good practices," Lenarcic said. "But whether this is used and how and when is up to the authorities."

Asked whether he raised the issue of restrictions on political activity in Turkmenistan, Lenarcic said that he discussed with the Turkmen Foreign Ministry the law on public organizations. He said he stressed during that discussion the importance for any country of allowing the unrestricted development of civil society.

Lenarcic said he also met with representatives of officially registered Turkmen NGOs to discuss the problems they face. He said there is "a lot of room for improvement" with regard to the authorities' attitude toward civil society.

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