Russia And Belarus: 20 Years Of Diplomatic Relations – OpEd
By Polina Chernitsa
Moscow will do everything to ensure the objective assessment of the upcoming parliamentary polls in Belarus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
He slammed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for trying to impose tighter election monitoring rules on Belarus and welcomed a decision to increase the role of CIS observers in election supervision.
Mr. Lavrov’s visit to Minsk, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Belarus, and his talks with President Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov focused on the current state, problems and prospects of bilateral ties.
The Belarusian leader particularly emphasized that there was not a single tense issue between the two counties at the moment. He expressed concern over intensifying political activities in the West as the Belarusian election drew nearer. Speaking about Matteo Mecacci, who was appointed to head a team of OSCE observers at the September polls, Lukashenko said that in his opinion, Mecacci was all but familiar with the situation in Belarus.
Lukashenko: You met him when you were a permanent representative at the UN, didn’t you?
Lukashenko: Yes, Mecacci. I think that they should’ve found a man who knows more about Belarus or the situation in Belarus. But we are closely watching and studying those positions. And of course, we will react appropriately.
Sergei Lavrov assured the Belarusian leader that Russia would send its observers to monitor the election and would do its best to promote an unbiased judgment.
“As for the parliamentary election and the OSCE activity, there is a decision by the CIS Council of the Heads of State to increase the role of CIS observer missions at presidential and parliamentary polls. It will give observers a greater amount influence throughout Europe and trim down the monopoly of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Assessments should stem from weighed collective approaches and opinions.”
Relations between the European Union and Belarus, Russia’s closest neighbor and Customs Union ally, have been pretty strained since Lukashenko was re-elected for a third term in December 2010. The EU slapped visa sanctions on him and other Belarusian officials and imposed economic restrictions on individual companies and businessmen.
Sergei Lavrov and his Belarusian counterpart gave the issue all due attention. Both sides reaffirmed that the European Union was an important partner for Russia as well as for Belarus but condemned the policy of threats and blackmail practiced by the EU. The Russian minister made a point of the counter-productivity of sanctions in general.
“Sanctions have never solved any problems no matter what country they targeted. The United States has been particularly notorious for such unilateral steps in breach of international law. And to my deepest regret, the EU has been following suit.”
The ministers discussed preparations for a joint session of their ministries’ boards, scheduled for October. According to Sergei Martynov, bilateral ties have received a powerful impetus this year thanks to broader economic partnership within a free trade zone. Both ministers are inclined to expect a major synergic effect in the future, all the more so that some non-CIS countries, including Vietnam and New Zealand, have expressed a wish to join in.