OSCE Chairman on minorities' rights in Latvia, Estonia

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who is Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), voiced, in a RIA Novosti interview, the necessity to protect national minorities' rights in Latvia and Estonia.

Mr. Passy is taking part in the 13th session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) in the capital of Scotland.

"We protect the rights of national minorities everywhere," stressed the chairman-in-office.

On July 7, at a session of the committee on democracy, human rights and humanitarian issues, the OSCE PA will consider a draft resolution on national minorities in Latvia and Estonia - the two Baltic states where the situation with the Russian-speaking population causes a lot of concerns of the Russian side. The draft was submitted for consideration by the head of the Russian delegation, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov.

In reply to a RIA Novosti correspondent's request to assess the situation with human rights and democratic freedoms in Turkmenistan, Mr. Passy recalled that in April 2004 he visited that country, held a number of meetings there and made a few statements.

"For the months that have passed since, I haven't received any news about the change of the situation there," said the OSCE chairman-in-office.

When on a visit to Turkmenistan on April 9, 2004, Solomon Passy held meetings with President Saparmurat Niyazov, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and parliament speaker Ovezgeldy Atayev.

Besides, Mr. Passy met with officials from the State National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights, as well as with representatives of civil society in the OSCE Center in Ashkhabad.

During conversations with the Turkmen leadership, Mr. Passy expressed that hope that OSCE Center programs will be implemented in full.

He welcomed Turkmenistan's decision not to impose the death penalty in the country and pay heed to the necessity to improve the conditions in prisons in line with international standards.