US, EU missions to OSCE back voting on peaceful dialogue in Belarus

The US and EU missions to the OSCE showed their support for the nationwide online voting on holding a dialogue between the Lukashenka regime and its numerous critics. The initiative was announced by Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s office on March, 18.

‘The voting is being launched in order to start talks with ‘the representatives of the regime who are ready to think about the future and make deliberate decisions rather than turn the crisis into a complete catastrophe,’ the politician said.

Holas website on March, 19.

She called Belarusians for registering in the voting system Holas (Vote) which enjoys the confidence of the EU, the US, the OSCE, other countries and international organisations. The would-be negotiations are to take place with the participation of high-profile international mediators, Tsikhanouskaya’s team promised.

On the same day, the United States expressed hope that such a dialogue would lead to ‘the negotiations necessary for new, free, and fair elections in Belarus’. According to the US side, the OSCE is particularly well-suited to facilitate this process.

“Dialogue, along with an end to the violent crackdown and the release of all political prisoners and all others unjustly detained, is necessary for resolving the political crisis in Belarus. It is unconscionable that nearly 300 political prisoners are incarcerated in Belarus. This is an assault on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The use of violence and other repressive tools to suppress dissent and punish those exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression stand in blatant disregard of Belarus’s commitments as an OSCE participating State and its obligations under international law,” Courtney Austrian, Chargé d’Affaires of the United States to the OSCE, said in a statement.

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Rasa Ostrauskaite, EU Permanent Representative to the OSCE, also backed the team’s initiative.

“The EU has clearly and repeatedly expressed its position regarding the conduct of the 9 August presidential elections in Belarus and their aftermath. The presidential elections were neither free nor fair and we do not recognise their results. 2. We fully support today’s renewed call for genuine and inclusive dialogue between Belarusian authorities and the political opposition, including the Coordination Council and members of Belarusian civil society, leading to the holding of free and fair elections this year, with international observation including by ODIHR. Only a peaceful and democratic process, underpinned by independent and free media and a strong civil society, can provide sustainable solutions and restore respect for democracy and fundamental freedoms in Belarus,” the statement reads.

The EU Mission to the OSCE expressed their readiness to contribute to ‘a democratic and peaceful solution’ and expects all partners of Belarus to support this dialogue.

By the moment, over 450,000 persons have voted on the online platform since the address was made on Tsikhanouskaya’s Youtube channel on Thursday morning. Notably, the Belarusian authorities responded to the invitation to a dialogue by allegedly blocking the access to Holas: lots of Belarusians have difficulty opening it on March, 19.

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