2019.09.26 10:00

Lithuania offers Belarus a way out of Russia's energy grip

BNS2019.09.26 10:00

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told his Belarusian counterpart, Minister Vladimir Makey, on Wednesday that Lithuania could help the neighboring country diversify its energy imports and ease dependence on Moscow.

"We spoke about the fact that Lithuania could contribute to the diversification of [Belarus’] energy supplies and by using our own capacity or in cooperation with Poland," Linkevičius told BNS after the meeting.

"We could hardly expect many answers, but it seemed to me that there was interest," he said by phone from New York.

Read more: Lithuanian, Belarusian ministers to hold talks during UN General Assembly

Vilnius considers proposing that Belarus import oil via Lithuania to help reduce its dependence on Russian energy resources.

Both ministers are in New York for the UN General Assembly.

Their meeting came after Gitanas Nauseda, who was sworn in as Lithuanian president in July, said that he would seek to gradually reopen dialogue with Belarus.

According to Linkevičius, Moscow’s influence on Belarus is clearly increasing.

"We are interested in Belarus retaining its sovereignty, as far as possible [...]," Linkevičius said. "I believe that a dialogue between Belarus and the European Union should also help mitigate the situation that is now emerging."

"The absence of dialogue would benefit Russia, but not the European Union, Lithuania and, as a matter of fact, Belarus itself," he added.

Nuclear power plant, reburial of insurgents discussed

The foreign ministers also discussed Belarus' Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction close to the two countries' shared border – the most acute issue in bilateral relations between Vilnius and Minsk.

Read more: Lithuania to hold evacuation and nuclear accident response drills in October

The Lithuanian minister said he reiterated Vilnius' demand that Belarus comply with international safety requirements and allow European Commission representatives to monitor the project.

Linkevičius told Makey that Lithuania "is at the same time protecting the interests of Belarusian citizens, because it is a common challenge".

"My colleague did not deny that [safety] must be ensured, but we have already heard these assurances before, and somehow they were not realised in practice," he told BNS.

Linkevičius also invited the Belarusian government to send an official delegation to the reburial of the remains of participants of the 1863-1864 uprising against Tsarist Russia.

According to the Lithuanian minister, Makey told him that Belarusians would be interested in attending the ceremony in Vilnius in November, but he said nothing about the possible level of such delegation.

Ex-Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko several times during her first presidential term, but later changed her position and suspended any high-level dialogue with Minsk.

In recent years, Lithuania has blocked a Belarusian-EU framework agreement on bilateral relations.

Linkevičius said Lithuania could consider revising its position on this issue if reopening dialogue with Belarus yields concrete results.

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