‘He is not president’. EEAS spokesman comments on Lukashenka’s demands, Merkel calls him again

The EU does not seem to consider Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the president of Belarus; it sees no grounds for lifting sanctions against the regime.

On November 15, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a telephone conversation. According to Lukashenka’s press service, they discussed ‘several issues, primarily the situation with refugees on the Belarusian-Polish, Belarusian-Lithuanian, and Belarusian-Latvian borders’. Later, when asked to comment on the conversation, Estonia’s Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said that the Belarusian politician expressed readiness to pull the plug on the current migration crisis, but in exchange for the West’s recognising him as president and lifting sanctions imposed on the regime.

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In an interview with the Belarusian media outlet Zerkalo.io, Peter Stano, Spokesman for the European External Action Service (EEAS), commented on the conditions set:

“I can only repeat that Mr Lukashenka has no legitimacy and, in our opinion, he is not the president [of Belarus] after his manipulating the election. He can be recognised as president only if he is elected in free and fair elections with the participation of international observers and as a result of the decision taken by the majority of the Belarusian people. And this is not what is happening these days.

The lifting of the existing sanctions is possible if the reasons for which we imposed them disappear. That is, as soon as repression against the Belarusian citizens ceases, as soon as the rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people are respected, all political prisoners and people who were detained for taking part in peaceful protests against the regime are released, as soon as the authorities stop using the judiciary to persecute their political opponents, as soon as the independent media are allowed to continue their work, as soon as those guilty of human rights violations, torture, death of protesters are brought to justice, as soon as the instrumentalisation of migration is stamped out.”

In fact, everything is in Lukashenka’s hands, Peter Stano concluded.

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Meanwhile, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Angela Merkel held another telephone conversation on Wednesday evening.

“Chancellor Merkel has called Mr. Lukashenka again. She pointed up the necessity for providing the people affected with humanitarian aid and opportunities to return [to their countries] with the support of UN Refugee Agency, UN International Organisation for Migration and in cooperation with the European Commission,” Merkel’s press secretary Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.

In turn, Lukashenka-controlled news agency BelTA reports that the two sides are going to ‘designate officials who will immediately enter into negotiations in order to resolve the existing problems’.

Last week, amid the ongoing migration crisis at the Belarusian-Polish border, the European Union was reported to be close to imposing more sanctions on Belarus, targeting some 30 individuals and entities including its foreign minister Uladzimir Makey and Belarus’ national air carrier Belavia. In the course of meeting with US leader Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU wouldwiden sanctions against Belarus very rapidly’.

On November 15, the Council of the EU amended its sanctions regime against the Belarusian authorities by broadening the listing criteria on which specific designations can be based. The EU is now able to target individuals and entities organising or contributing to activities by the Lukashenka regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the EU’s external borders.

On November 16, a group of migrants who were seeking to illegally cross the Belarus-Poland border, started to throw stones, logs, metal pieces at Polish border guards from the Belarusian side. To stop the attackers, Polish officers resorted to using tear gas and water cannons.

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