Landsbergis didn’t hear about Merkel’s call from the Presidential Office: thank God, we have other friends

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel, Reuters/Scanpix

Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis regrets that the ministry learned about the call between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belarusian authoritarian leader Aliaksandr Lukashenko only from foreign partners and not from the Presidential Office, reported.

Asta Skaisgirytė, the Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, has previously said that the Presidential Office had prior knowledge of the ambiguous conversation and could have coordinated the talking points. For his part, Landsbergis said that the Government had learned about the conversation from its partners in neighbouring countries.

“The only thing I can say is that it is disappointing. It makes our work more difficult. We are now getting information through our partners, and we have an agreement to be informed in time. Thank God we have other friends outside Lithuania. I know what it looks like, but unfortunately, these are the circumstances. I hope that this will be resolved and that it will not take too long because this is a very bad practice,” said Mr Landsbergis.

According to Landsbergis, foreign partners have already reacted to Nausėda’s remarks in an interview with the BBC that Lukashenka needs to be talked to.

“There are reactions; let’s put it that way”, the minister said.

“There are countries, including our neighbours, that feel betrayed by Germany’s unilateral actions. It is very important for them which side we are on”, Landsbergis stressed.

Asked whether the talks between Merkel and Lukashenko could be of any benefit, Landsbergis said that it was difficult to assess at the moment.

“Poland has a huge force on the border. They are very serious about securing the border; they invest a lot of money in it. We are building the wall. So now, should we continue or not? Is it or is it not resolved? It is a very, very strange situation,” concluded Mr Landsbergis.

Violated the Constitution?

The chairman of the Seimas Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), conservative MP Žygimantas Pavilionis, argued that by failing to consult with the Government on foreign affairs issues, the President’s Office is not complying with the country’s Constitution.

“The Constitution clearly states that the President conducts foreign policy together with the Government. The Constitution also makes it clear that the Prime Minister represents the Government. We also know who heads the ministries. Working together on such sensitive issues, there could not have been any consultation without a phone call, without consulting the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister,” said Pavilionis.

He informed that the Committee would soon invite the President’s advisor, Asta Skaisgirytė, to explain the position of the Presidential Office.

“Who are the people you think need to be consulted in this country? How do we view the coordination of foreign policy with the Government as enshrined in the Constitution? What is the role of parliament and all the mandates in foreign policy at that time?” – asked the MP.

Pavilionis pointed out that he is in daily contact with MPs from Poland, who describe Nausėda’s support for Merkel’s calls as ” profound disappointment”.

“I think the President has understood, or maybe he will understand, that you can’t behave like this at this moment. However, you cannot forget that you will have to live with your neighbour for hundreds of years to come”, added the Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman.

Are negotiations with Lukashenko ongoing?

Landsbergis said that negotiations on the border situation with Belarus’ authoritarian leader Lukashenko are ongoing, which is a dangerous path.

“Negotiations are de facto ongoing. I can only repeat that in my opinion this is a dangerous path because there is always an expectation when we negotiate with someone that we are on the same page, that we are both negotiating in the language of the law,” the minister told reporters at the Parliament on Thursday.

“Dictators, authoritarians are notorious for not abiding by the rule of law, which means that even if you reach an agreement, it doesn’t mean that they will abide by it. So if we can hope that we have achieved some results and that people will be pulled back from the borders or whatever, we will never know how many will be pulled back, where they will be pulled back to, what will happen next, when will there be a new step from the authoritarian side, it is very dangerous,” he added, referring to Merkel’s talks with Lukashenko.

According to Landsbergis, the Belarusian leader, who the West does not recognise, may have demanded that the country’s air carrier Belavia be removed from the European Union’s new sanctions list.

According to the Minister, the sanctions are currently being negotiated, and removing Belavia is a “major political retreat”.

“Negotiations are ongoing. We have made our position very clear because it was agreed in principle around the table of 27 on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council that the list will not be changed in principle, in other words, no country expressed any objection (…). In this case, this is a major political retreat from what we have worked very hard to reach a consensus on”, said the head of Lithuanian diplomacy.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Merkel spoke with Belarus’ authoritarian President Aliaksandr Lukashenko for the second time this week, the first talks between a Western leader and Lukashenko since the presidential election in August last year, which the West rejected.

G. Landsbergis spoke to the public broadcaster LRT TV programme Dienos Tema on Wednesday: ‘It seems that a separate track of negotiations with a dictator and an illegitimate president has been launched, and I think that this is a sad hour for Europe.’

He was asked who was Merkel consulting when she was preparing to call Lukashenko? What prompted her? ‘- She did not consult the Baltic States, to my knowledge. Nor with Poland.’
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