After the European Union decided to move to a more cooperative approach with Turkmenistan when extending its interim trade agreement last year, and after the U.S. decided to increase cooperation with the annual bilateral consultations (ABCs), the multilateral organizations deepened their already-soft approach.
The United Nations has a number of active programs in Turkmenistan but refrains from direct criticism on problems like the lack of reporting on HIV/AIDS cases. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is now helping the Central Election Commission of Turkmenistan conduct programs in Ashgabat and provincial cities to educate people about election rights. This enables the official press to crow about Ashgabat’s seeming compliance with international electoral standards regarding universal suffrage, transparency, and campaigning (still known by the Soviet-era term "agitation" in Turkmenistan) – and cite foreign visitors as praising Turkmen democracy.
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Catherine A. Fitzpatrick compiles the Turkmenistan weekly roundup for EurasiaNet. She is also editor of EurasiaNet's Sifting the Karakum blog. To subscribe to the weekly email with a digest of international and regional press, write email@example.com