2021.11.18 11:26

Lithuanian FM says one EU country wants Belavia off sanctions list, slams ‘de facto talks’ with Minsk

Augustas Stankevičius, BNS2021.11.18 11:26

An EU member state appears to be pushing for Belavia, the Belarusian national airline, to be removed from the bloc's fresh sanction list, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said.

“Really worrying news has reached us. It seems that there is an attempt to remove a key element from the sanctions list: sanctions against Belavia, which is known to be responsible for a considerable number of migrants brought to Belarus,” he told LRT TV.

Removing Syria's airline is also being considered, according to the minister.

Landsbergis said he did not know which country made the proposal, but he did not rule out that it might be Germany.

Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers agreed on a fresh round of sanctions against Belarus and instructed diplomats to prepare a specific list of individuals and companies to be blacklisted.

The sanctions will be slapped on Minsk for its role in fueling the migrant crisis on Belarus' border with EU member states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Read more: Migration crisis in Baltics and Poland

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko for the second time this week.

According to the Lithuanian foreign minister, a “separate track of talks with the dictator, the illegitimate president” has now been launched.

“It is now crucial for Europe to go back to what was agreed. [We have to] once again solidify our fundamental position, which we have so carefully protected since last year’s stolen election, that [Lukashenko] is an illegitimate president with whom Europe does not negotiate,” Landsbergis said.

“Europe makes legitimate and just demands: to release political prisoners, organise new elections, end the hybrid attack,” he added. “Failure to meet these demands leads to economic, financial and other sanctions.”

‘Dangerous path’

The EU has started “de facto talks” with Lukashenko about the border situation Landsbergis, calling it “a dangerous path”.

“Talks are de facto happening,” he told reporters on Thursday. “I can only repeat that in my opinion this is a dangerous path, because there is always an expectation when we negotiate with someone that we are on the same page, we are both negotiating in the language of the law.”

“Dictators, authoritarians are notorious for not abiding by the rule of law, which means that even if you reach an agreement, it does not mean that they will abide by it,” the minister said.

“So if we hope that we have achieved some results and that people will be pulled back from the borders or whatever, we will never know how many of them will be pulled back, where they will be pulled back to, what will happen next, when there will be a new step from the authoritarian side. It is very dangerous,” he added.

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