Polish FM Meets Lukashenka Amid Row Over Belarus's Poles

KYIV -- Poland's foreign minister has met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to discuss the dispute over Minsk's treatment of its ethnic Polish minority.

The two met in Kyiv, where they were attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said afterward that Lukashenka had agreed to set up an expert group to study the issue of Belarus's Polish minority.

The meeting came as a European Parliament delegation was due in Belarus for a fact-finding mission.

The row, which has also strained Belarus-EU ties, was prompted by recent Belarusian police action against an unofficial Polish cultural organization, the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB).

The group was evicted from its office buildings near Minsk earlier this month and police have also briefly detained a number of its activists.

The EP delegation is expected to meet government officials, as well as representatives of the opposition and civil society.

Based on its findings it will issue a report expected to be key for an upcoming European Parliament resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus.

"The results and impressions that the delegation comes back with will have an important meaning insofar as the position of the parliament is concerned," delegation member Justas Paleckis told RFE/RL's Belarus Service ahead of the visit.

On February 22, EU foreign ministers said they were "concerned" about the moves by Belarusian authorities and said they constituted a setback in the EU's relationship with Belarus.

ZPB chairwoman Andzelika Borys was in Brussels this week for a series of meetings with European parliamentarians.

The delegation's report will also include recommendations for the composition of Belarus's delegation to the so-called Euronest parliamentary assembly.

That is the planned parliamentary component of the EU's eastern partnership, which is aimed at boosting ties with six countries -- Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as well as Belarus.

There is speculation MEPs will propose that Borys be included in Minsk's delegation.


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