2019.08.29 10:00

Lithuanian president looks into revising ties with Belarus, undisclosed meeting suggests

BNS2019.08.29 10:00

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has had an undisclosed meeting with political scientists to discuss possible changes in bilateral relations with Belarus, sources have told BNS.

The meeting took place at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday and was attended by Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and eight political scientists: Giedrius Česnakas, Kęstutis Girnius, Juljan Jachovič, Tomas Janeliūnas, Laurynas Jonavičius, Vytis Jurkonis, Linas Kojala and Andžej Pukūto, according to BNS's sources.

The meeting involved an exchange of opinions on the invitation for Belarus to attend a reburial ceremony for nineteenth-century uprising participants, planned in Vilnius in November, the Astravyets nuclear power plant, issues related to the Belarusian identity, as well as Minsk's ties with Russia.

The meeting had not been preannounced on the presidential agenda.

Approached by BNS, the presidential office confirmed that such a meeting did take place, with Nausėda's spokesman noting that the president regularly invites experts from different areas to hear their opinions.

“The meeting was attended by the president, several of his advisers and the political scientists invited to the meeting. The meeting's key goal was to discuss current foreign policy affairs over the first six weeks of the presidential term, and also attention was paid to a discussion on Lithuania's relations with Belarus,” Antanas Bubnelis, spokesman for the president, told BNS.

Change in relations?

Nausėda hinted last month that he was ready to improve relations with Belarus, but vowed to preserve the strict position on blocking imports of power produced at the Astravyest nuclear power plant.

“I am convinced that we should not buy electricity from the unsafely-built power plant as it's a threat to our people and a threat to our security,” Nausėda told journalists in Warsaw on July 16. “But if it's possible to improve relations with this element in place, I am ready to do that.”

He said then he had yet to decide weather dialogue with Belarus could take place at the highest-level. In the president's words, Lithuania is still considering whom to invite from the Belarusian government to the reburial of the remains of participants of the 1863-1864 uprising, planned in Vilnius in autumn.

“Does that have to be a visit by the top-level leader? Let us think about it, and I think we will be able answer this question soon,” Nausėda said in response to a question by BNS.

Lithuania's former President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during her first presidential term. Later, however, her position changed and she discontinued top-level meetings with Belarus, saying they were impossible due to Minsk's close ties with Russia and the construction of the Astravyets nuclear power plant. On her orders, not only the presidents, but also the foreign minister would not meet.

In recent years, Lithuania has been blocking a Belarus-EU agreement on bilateral relations.

Based on media reports earlier this week, John Bolton, adviser on national security issues to US President Donald Trump, set to pay a visit to Belarus soon.

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