2020.02.03 10:02

US welcomes Lithuania's engagement with Belarus, FM says ahead of Minsk visit

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS2020.02.03 10:02

The US welcomes Lithuania's more active engagement with Belarus, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius says ahead of his visit to Minsk.

The visit on Monday and Tuesday has been panned by the opposition, critical of the government's recent efforts to maintain a dialogue with the neighbouring country.

Linkevičius spoke with US Assistant Secretary of State Philip T. Reeker by phone on Sunday and discussed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's weekend visit to Belarus.

The minister says he was assured that the US raised the issue of Belarus' new nuclear power plant in Astravyets which Lithuania considers unsafe.

Read more: Causing panic over Belarusian nuclear plant could hurt Lithuanian economy – FM Linkevičius

“It was import to hear that the US side raised the safety issue of the Astravyets power plant. I would also point out that the US welcomes Lithuania's more active involvement in the dialogue with Belarus and believes it can be beneficial,” Linkevičius told BNS on Sunday.

According to the minister, the US wants to deepen ties with Belarus and plans to restore representation at the ambassadorial level, but is also raising the issue of human rights and democracy.

Linkevičius also notes that both the US and Lithuania are offering Belarus alternatives to energy imports from Russia.

Read more: Belarus calls for regular oil imports via Baltics as first shipment arrives in Lithuania

Linkevičius will be in Belarus on Monday and Tuesday.

After assuming his position in July, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said he would seek to maintain a dialogue with Belarus in an effort to keep it independent from Russia.

Read more: Lukashenko accuses Moscow of pressuring Belarus into Russian merger

The opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, however, have criticised Linkevičius' visit to Minsk.

MP Žygimantas Pavilionis has said that “after such a visit, the Belarusian regime will declare that the dialogue with Lithuania is successful and ongoing, and it will be very hard for us to create coalition against Astravyets in the West”.

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