Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry has decided to recall some of its diplomats from Minsk, although not as many as demanded by Belarus’ authorities.
Lithuania decided to recall five diplomats and believed that this measure would help preserve dialogue with the Minsk government, said Rasa Jakilaitienė, a spokeswoman for the Lithuanian foreign minister, on Friday.
Belarus' Foreign Ministry demanded that Lithuania recall eleven diplomats.
Meanwhile Poland has announced it is recalling 32 diplomats from its Minsk embassy, Tut.by reports. The donwsizing is from 50 to 18 diplomats, as demanded by the Belarusian government.
Earlier this week, Lithuania summoned its ambassador to Belarus for consultations under pressure from Minsk.
At the same time, Lithuania warned the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that it would take countermeasures, should Minsk continue to escalate the situation.
“It is important for us to ensure the least possible disruption in the functioning of our embassy in Minsk and our consulate in Grodno. This is necessary not just for the performance of consular functions, the issue of visas to Belarusian citizens and interaction with the diaspora, but also for communication with the Belarusian civil society,” Jakilaitienė told BNS.
“Belarus has made categorical demands to drastically reduce the number of accredited Lithuanian diplomats – to recall eleven of them,” she said.
“Together with Poland, we have decided to recall our ambassadors for consultations in order to reduce tensions and to preserve a possibility to maintain diplomatic relations,” the spokeswoman continued.
“Having assessed various circumstances and risks, we have also decided to recall five more Lithuanian diplomats and we hope that this measure will be sufficient to maintain possibilities of a dialogue,” she said.
“We pointed out to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that we would take countermeasures, should Belarus pursue further escalation. We would like to emphasise once more that an unfriendly step taken by the current Belarusian authorities towards the reduction of diplomatic contacts will further contribute to the self-isolation of Minsk,” Jakilaitienė added.
Last week, Belarus recalled its ambassadors from Lithuania and Poland and demanded that the countries reduce their diplomatic staff in Minsk.
Germany, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania also recalled their ambassadors for consultations in a show of solidarity with Lithuania and Poland.
Lithuania and Poland have been spearheading diplomatic efforts to convince the EU to support Belarusian protesters that demand democratic changes and not to recognise the victory of Alexander Lukashenko in a rigged presidential election last August.
Lithuania has also imposed sanctions against Lukashenko and has been calling to blacklist him across the EU.
Belarus has been rocked by mass protests ever since the contested August 9 presidential election when the country's authoritarian leader Lukashenko, who has been ruling the country since 1994, was declared the winner. The country's opposition and Western countries believe the vote was rigged.