Depending on Lukashenka’s conduct: EU to suspend Belarus sanctions after vote – Reuters

The European Union will lift its sanctions on Belarus, including those on president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for four months after Sunday’s vote barring any last-minute crackdown, reports with reference to diplomatic sources.

EU foreign ministers will take the decision on Monday, diplomats said, ending three weeks of difficult talks to respond to his pardoning of six jailed political prisoners in August and hosting of peace talks for Ukraine in February.

Those moves have cemented a perception among EU officials that Lukashenka, the close Moscow ally known in the West as Europe’s last dictator, is opening up Belarus to Europe.

“Depending on Lukashenka’s conduct at the presidential election, the decision to lift sanctions for four months will be formally adopted on Monday,” said one senior EU diplomat close to the issue.

“The EU needed to respond to the freeing of the political prisoners,” a second diplomat said.

Diplomats say the EU’s list of around 140 individuals will be suspended from the end of October until the end of February, allowing those in question to move their money around and travel again. An arms embargo will remain.

However, the European Union will keep the sanctions, which have been renewed every October for the last few years, under review. The suspensions could be allowed to expire if Belarus is seen as committing fresh rights abuses.

Four members of Lukashenka’s security services, suspected of being behind the disappearances of political opponents, will remain under sanctions.

Some of the 25 Belarusian companies currently targeted will now be eligible for financing from the European Investment Bank. Ending other curbs that block Belarus from Europeancapital markets, export credit insurance or EU technical assistance mean Russia is no longer the only source of financing for Belarus.

Some companies, such as military equipment exporter Beltechexport, are likely to remain under sanctions.

The office of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was not available to comment, although Mogherini welcomed the prisoner release on Aug. 22., via Reuters

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