News2019.09.27 14:00

Lithuanian FM says conservatives help Russia by opposing dialogue with Minsk

BNS 2019.09.27 14:00

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius says the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the biggest opposition party in the Seimas, are helping Russia by opposing efforts to reopen dialogue with Belarus. 

The minister's comment comes after the conservative party said they are worried that Vilnius may reverse its position and stop blocking a framework agreement between the European Union and Belarus.

"Instead of asking about a change of the position every week, they should get concerned about the absence of any normal dialogue with Belarus," Linkevičius told BNS by phone from New York on Thursday. "What changes can we expect in that country's actions if we do not speak at all?"

"What is even more surprising is that they do not want a dialogue between the EU and Belarus. This is certainly in the interests of one country [Russia], but I do not know whether they are protecting that country's interests with or without realising it," he added.

Vilnius has until now vetoed the EU's framework agreement with Belarus.

The Homeland Union say they are concerned about the reopening of political dialogue between Lithuania and Belarus and Linkevičius' meeting with Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey in New York on Wednesday.

The conservatives regard Lithuania's ability to block the agreement as an instrument to ensure its national security.

The party accuses Linkevicius of failure to take active steps to convince the other two Baltic countries to bar market access for Astravyets electricity and to secure a unified EU position on this issue.

Lithuania's chief diplomat dismissed the criticism, saying "Our attitude toward the power plant remains unchanged".

"But we see a broader dialogue with that country. It is important that it maintains its sovereignty, because it is now facing great challenges; human rights and political parties' activities in Belarus are also important to us," Linkevičius said.

"The lack of communication with [Belarus] will not isolate the country, but it isolates our ability to influence [Minsk]," he added.

According to the minister, EU member countries and Belarus are currently discussing how a framework agreement could look like and Lithuania wants it to contain provisions on democracy and nuclear safety.

"[We will approve the agreement] if the provisions we demand are reflected. If it does not happen, then, no doubt, we will not approve. Everyone knows that," he said.

The Homeland Union said on Thursday they are initiating an extraordinary meeting of the parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs over Linkevičius' meeting with Makey.

Vilnius is reopening dialogue with Minsk after Gitanas Nausėda was sworn as Lithuania's president in July. His predecessor, Dalia Grybauskaitė, had suspended any high-level contacts with Minsk.

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