Belarus sanctions likely to end, Linkevičius says

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko RIA/Scanpix

Minister Linkevičius is attending an EU summit on Monday to discuss the issue. Several EU member states will oppose extending the sanctions, he has told LRT radio.

“For the sanctions for Belarus to be extended, a unified stance of all 28 countries will be needed. My prediction is that there will be no unified stance. Some countries have stated publicly against extension of sanctions for Belarus,” Linkevičius told BNS on Monday.

Lithuania wants to see progress in both bilateral relations with Belarus and the EU-Belarus dialogue.

“What we care about is not just the democratic processes but also other issues, such as nuclear safety. We have been constantly raising the issue, therefore, we will seek reflection of the issue in the conclusions on Belarus at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday,” said Linkevičius.

“We have to give a positive response to the decision taken by Belarus to release all political prisoners. As a matter of fact, we see positive changes, but they are not sufficient, therefore, we should encourage Belarus to continue with the progress. Lithuania’s stance is that the arms embargo and measures against those charged in relation to disappearance of people should not be recalled,” the minister added.

The EU sanctions on Belarus, introduced in 2011, expired in October 2015, but European ministers then decided to suspend them for four months and make the final decision in February. Lifting sanctions was contingent on Belarus’s progress in ensuring human rights and democracy, they said back then.

Austria is one of the countries pushing to end sanctions on Minsk. The country’s foreign policy chief Michael Linhart has publicly stated Vienna would not support their extension.

Lithuania’s Linkevičius also said last October that he would not oppose lifting the Belarus sanctions.

The EU introduced asset freezes and travel bans on President Alexander Lukashenko and some 150 other Belarusian officials in 2011 after the government’s crackdown on the opposition.

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