U.S. Senators Call For Joint U.S.-EU Action On Belarus

A group of prominent U.S. senators are calling for a strong, joint response by the United States and the European Union to the crackdown on protests against the reelection of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus.

The call came in a letter to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton signed by six U.S. senators, including Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, and Richard Lugar.

In the letter made available to RFE/RL (pictured), the senators say the trans-Atlantic measures should carry "very real and significant consequences" for Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials allegedly responsible for human rights abuses, vote fraud, and the continued detention of opposition presidential candidates and party leaders following the December 19 presidential election.

They say the measures should renew targeted sanctions against Lukashenka and other officials, and include a ban on doing business with Belneftekhim, Belarus' state oil company.

The senators also call for increased support for political, civil society, and human rights groups in Belarus.

In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg today, the European Parliament also condemned the Belarus crackdown and called for a repeat election that would be "free and democratic."

Ashton said the EU will reinstate a travel ban on Lukashenka. She said on January 19 that "the time has come to act." She said EU foreign ministers will decide on the visa ban at their next meeting on January 31.

Earlier in the day Polish media reported that Poland has already unilaterally decided to impose its own travel ban. Latvia's foreign minister, meanwhile, says the Belarussian government should be punished for its behavior. Girts Kistovskis made his remarks in Helsinki at a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart, Alexander Stubb.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "sanctions mentality exacerbates division lines and destroys trust."

The EU imposed a visa ban against Lukashenka and around 40 officials in 2006 following a crackdown on the opposition, but the measure was suspended two years later in the hope of encouraging changes in the country.


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