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2021.11.17 15:24

Borrell, not Merkel, should be talking to Minsk, Lithuanian FM says

BNS2021.11.17 15:24

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has expressed scepticism about a recent phone call between Germany's Angela Merkel and Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

He also said that further sanctions could be imposed on Belarus if it refuses to let migrants return home.

Read more: ‘I see no point in talking with him’ – Lithuanian FM baffled by Merkel-Lukashenko call

Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, are stranded on Belarus' border with the EU.

“I'd suggest considering additional sectoral sanctions if people are barred from leaving. The European Union has the instruments,” Landsbergis told reporters on Wednesday. “Speaking in the language he [Alexander Lukashenko] understands is the right way to go.”

According to Lithuania's top diplomat, the Iraq government is arranging a flight for Iraqi citizens stranded at the border.

“About 200 people have signed up for it,” he said. “With more flights and a safe passage to the airport, I think a lot of people could be saved.”

Landsbergis expects a fresh round of sanctions on Belarus, recently agreed on by EU leaders, to take effect shortly.

“The list [of sanctioned entities] should be finalised in the next few days. It consists of almost 30 subjects, individuals and organisations,” he said.

Read more: Lithuanian president says ‘possible to solve crisis’ by talking to Lukashenko

Landsbergis expressed scepticism about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone call with Lukashenko on Monday, saying that such conversations were risky and could be used by the Belarusian dictator “to legitimize himself”.

“The dictator will do everything he can to make this conversation look like negotiations and to create as much confusion as he can,” Landsbergis said. “It is his aim to weaken us, to weaken our position, to make us doubt each other.”

Instead, the EU should convey its positions via its foreign affairs representatives, he added.

“There can be no negotiation under any circumstances,” he said. “I believe that when EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell speaks, it is the right way to go.”

“He spoke to [Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir] Makey yesterday. We know exactly what he said; we know the content of his conversation; he has the authority,” Landsbergis said.

Read more: Migration crisis in Baltics and Poland

“[Borrell] demanded that people be allowed to leave the border immediately, that a safe corridor be created for them to leave Belarus through airports and to return home,” the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

“I support such a position if there is a consensus among the 27 member states,” he added.

Several thousand migrants have been camping near the Polish border in Belarus, making attempts to force their way into Poland.

Lithuania has declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus and at migrant camps.

Over 4,200 irregular migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year. Nearly 7,000 more have been kept out by border guards since August when Lithuania introduced pushbacks.

Lithuania and other EU countries have accused the Minsk regime of migrant smuggling, calling it “hybrid aggression”.

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