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2021.11.15 12:41

Minsk Airport must be made no-fly zone, Lithuanian FM says

BNS2021.11.15 12:41

The European Union should make Minsk Airport a no-fly zone, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said after arriving in Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

One of the key items on the agenda is sanctioning Belarus for sending irregular migrants to Poland and the Baltics.

Read more: Migration crisis in Baltics and Poland

“The most important issue for us is the situation near the Lithuanian, Polish and Belarusian border. [...] Everybody is focused on the question of sanctions, but I will have to go broader than this, basically what we are looking at is to make Minsk Airport a no-flight zone,” Landsbergis said on Monday.

“At least for the time being, we need to ensure that no planes, which would be potentially bringing in people with the intention to migrate,[...] land in Minsk or any Belarusian airport,” he added.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers are to decide on new sanctions for Belarus for fueling a migrant crisis near its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The minister are expected to approve sanctions for airlines, travel agencies, and officials linked to migrant trafficking to Belarus, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on the eve of the meeting.

The Lithuanian foreign minister also underlined the need to open a “humanitarian corridor” so that the migrants could return to their countries of origin.

“The second thing we need to talk [about] is how do we provide a safe passage to the people who are already in Belarus for them to go back home. It's also very crucial, we need to work with international institutions such as the United Nations and others in order to bring people back. If we manage to secure a safe passage, Lithuanian government would be ready to assist in providing technical support for people going back home,” Landsbergis said.

Read more: ‘Around 30 subjects’ in Belarus slated for further EU sanctions

In additional to sanctions, the EU should make sure that people involved in migrant trafficking be held accountable, he said.

“Third, we need to discuss not only the sanctions bus also the future of the Belarusian regime. When sanctions wear out, we need to talk about legal consequences for the people of the regime who participated in bringing all the people to Belarus and causing so much human tragedy on the border of Poland and Belarus and the Lithuanian-Belarus border,” he said.

Months-long tensions on the EU's eastern borders escalated further last week when several thousand migrants massed near the Belarusian-Polish border and some of them tried to force their way into Poland.

Fearing a similar development on its border, Lithuanian declared a state of emergency in its borderlands and in migrant camps.

Over 4,200 irregular migrants have come to Lithuanian so far this year, while around 6,000 more have been turned away by border guards.

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