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Turkmenistan: OSCE Human Rights Officer Expresses Slight Optimism

Prague, 17 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The following are excerpts from an interview with Pyotr Iwaszkiawiscz, Human Rights Officer at the office in Ashgabat of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He was speaking by telephone on Friday (May 14) with the Turkmen Service's Naz Nazar.

Iwaszkiawiscz was asked why Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann, head of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, had changed plans to visit Ashgabat.

"Well, Mr. Stoudmann couldn't have the high-level meetings during his visit, because of the fact that in the same time, the Turkmen officials, the president and government are in Iran, and this is the reason that the visit is postponed.... Nevertheless, Mr. Stoudmann will send to Ashgabat a small delegation, consisting of two people, and the delegation will have meetings on a bit lower level."

Iwaszkiawiscz was asked when the OSCE expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Turkmen government.

"We don't know. We don't know. But we hope that it will be soon, but for the time being it's hard to say. We don't know."

Iwaszkiawiscz was asked about interference from Turkmen authorities who seek to discourage citizens from approaching international officials or human rights groups to discuss their concerns.

"Well, as you said, the people are strongly discouraged [from having] contact with us, sometimes. They are discouraged by authorities, and, well, you can understand it makes my work really more difficult, and more complicated."

Iwaszkiawiscz was asked about statements last week by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov promising that Turkmenistan will implement agreements signed with the OSCE while also saying that there are limits on how much citizens can criticize the government.

"Well, our position is that we hope that all the OSCE commitments will be fully implemented, and all the OSCE standards in the field of human rights and democratization will be adopted in Turkmenistan. Its our position."

Iwaszkiawiscz was asked if he were hopeful about democratization in Turkmenistan.

"It's not our hope, it's our point, it's our position. Well, not only the hope.... Now we are observing this development of situation, and well, we are quite optimistic. Of course, there is a lot to do."