The full relief of sanctions on Belarus is up to Minsk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent said.
In an interview with tut.by, the top diplomat recalled that the violation of human rights had initially become the reason for imposing sanctions on Belarus. The restrictive measures were suspended after the release of political prisoners in 2015. In October 2018, the United States extended the regime of temporary suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian companies for twelve months (earlier, the period of extention was six months). According to Mr Kent, when making the decision, the US government took into account many factors, including the Belarusian authorities’ ‘generally positive’ approach to the freedom of assembly in 2018, which was demonstrated during the celebrations to mark the centenary of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR) on March, 25.
“Their issuing a permit to hold such an event on March 25, 2019 would be seen as another step forward,” the representative of the US State Department stressed. “If Belarus takes more steps in the field of human rights and democracy, we could consider the possibility of further easing sanctions.”
This week, George Kent has visited our country and met with Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey to discuss U.S.-Belarus relations and prospects for developing them further.
“I came to Minsk to reiterate our support for the sovereignty and independence of Belarus and confirm our commitment to have constructive relations with the people and authorities of Belarus,” he said.
Washington welcomed Belarus’ decision to lift a cap on the number of US diplomats allowed in the country, Kent stated. However, he did not specify when a US Ambassador would arrive in Minsk.
Freedom Day (Dzień Voli) is an unofficial holiday in Belarus, which is celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. The current regime denies Freedom Day and often prevents the opposition forces from celebrating it.