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2020.02.05 08:00

Lithuania nudges Belarus out of Russia's energy grip

BNS2020.02.05 08:00

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has on Tuesday offered Belarus regular oil transit and gas imports via the Lithuanian port of Klaipėda.

Amid standoff with Moscow over tarriffs, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has previously called for a third of the country's oil imports to come via the Baltic states. The first large-scale shipment of Norwegian crude departed Klaipėda for Belarus last month.

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

An alternative to supplies from Russia would bolster Belarus' independence, which also matches Lithuania's interests, Linkevičius said while on a visit in Minsk.

"We understood that they are really interested in oil supplies being regular and continuous, and not one-off as it was recently," Linkevičius told reporters. "We will be looking for technical solutions on gas supplies. It's an alternative and that strengthens their independence," Linkevičius told reporters.

"Their independence is our national interest," he added.

Read more: US pledges to help Belarus ‘build its own sovereign country’

Besides oil import via Lithuanian port and railway, Linkevičius also discussed the use of Klaipėda's LNG terminal for gas supplies.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said "experts will continue looking into this matter," who together with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Rumas met Linkevičius in Minsk.

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

Cooperation between Belarus and the European Union and NATO was also discussed during the meeting, the Belarusian foreign minister said.

Linkevičius also offered to assist Belarus' accession to the World Trade Organisation, which is also in the interest of Lithuania. The foreign minister also raised the issue of the Astravyets nuclear plant's safety during his visit, as well as the Lithuanian education in Belarus.

Read more: Lithuania’s view of Belarusian nuclear plant ‘not changing’ – FM Linkevičius in Minsk

Linkevičius dismissed any drastic changes in bilateral relations.

"But I believe this visit was really meaningful. […] The dialogue will continue and we will try to do everything in the way that is, first of all, good for our national interests," he said.

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