Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talked upping trade with Latvia during the meeting on Friday with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, indicating that the Belarusian leader will stand by his previous words – “If Lithuania doesn’t want to work with us, we will need to focus on Latvia”.
Currently, Lithuania is the main transit country for Belarusian freight, but earlier in July, the head of the Belarusian Embassy in Latvia, Vasily Markovich, said that Minsk will look to increase the use of Latvian ports.
“If some countries don’t understand us and this affects the Belarusian economy, we will of course look for better options,” Lukashenko said on Friday, referring to the ongoing dispute with Vilnius over Belarus' nuclear plant construction in Astravets, 50 kilometers from the Lithuanian border.
While Vilnius has been trying to rally European countries to commit against buying Belarusian energy, Latvia’s position hasn’t been as categorical. Although, the new Latvian president, Egils Levits, has said that his country’s priority is security, and as long as it’s not guaranteed, there can’t be any talks of trade.
Speaking on Latvian TV following the meeting, Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs said Belarus promised to secure high safety standards during the construction of Astravets nuclear power plant, as well as attract international experts for its commissioning.
Yet, there is no word from Minsk on how it plans to implement EU recommendations before the bloc can consider the nuclear plant 50 kilometers from Vilnius to be safe.
During the meeting, Lukashenko reportedly told the Latvian foreign minister that politics shouldn’t overshadow trade and said he would come to Riga “in the future”, hinting that his first visit after having the travel ban to the EU lifted in 2016 would be to Latvia.
According to the Belarusian leader, USD 600 million per year in trade between the two countries is too low, given the potential.