ASHGABAT (TCA) — After her talks with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Berlin on August 29, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Turkmenistan has agreed to discuss the possibility of giving foreign diplomats access to its prisons, RFE/RL reports.
“We talked about the fact that it would be desirable having diplomats get access to the prisons in Turkmenistan,” Merkel said at a joint news conference with Berdymukhammedov on August 29. “President [Berdymukhammedov] promised that the [German and Turkmen] foreign ministers will talk about [the issue] now and that international diplomats will later be able to have a look there and assess the situation,” she added.
International rights group Human Rights Watch has called on Berlin to challenge the Turkmen leader to end its secretive imprisonment of political opponents, free a prominent jailed journalist, and eliminate arbitrary bans on people leaving the country.
Berdymukhammedov said Turkmenistan was working on reforming its constitution and will introduce a human rights ombudsman.
The Turkmen leader also said his country, which has some of the world’s largest natural gas reserves, is discussing diversifying its gas exports and selling gas to European Union countries.
Ashgabat has already presented the European Commission with proposals for how to proceed, he added.
Germany is Turkmenistan’s main foreign trading partner in the European Union, with bilateral trade worth $466 million in 2014, the most recent figure available. Much of the trade focuses on Germany exporting machinery and other industrial products to Turkmenistan.