Belarus Foreign Minister Visits Warsaw Amid Row

WARSAW -- Belarus's foreign minister is scheduled to meet his Polish counterpart in Warsaw today, amid a row between the two countries over Belarus's treatment of its ethnic Polish minority, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarhey Martynau's talks with Radoslaw Sikorski are expected to touch on the dispute triggered by the eviction of a Polish cultural organization from its offices near Minsk earlier this week.

On February 11, the leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) and other officials were summoned to the police department in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna.

ZPB Chairwoman Anzhelika Borys told RFE/RL that police did not explain the reason for the summons, but added that it was probably related to protests held by ZPB leaders and supporters in Hrodna the previous day.

About 200 people attended the Hrodna rally to protest the February 8 eviction of the ZPB from its offices in Ivyanets, a town about 50 kilometers west of Minsk. The next day, Belarusian police seized the ZPB building.

Poland responded by recalling its ambassador to Belarus for two days and Polish President Lech Kaczynski called Borys and expressed his concern about the situation regarding the ZPB.

In Brussels, EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minster, called on Belarus to "stop taking drastic measures against the Polish minority."

The ZPB was deregistered by the Belarusian authorities after it elected Borys as its chairwoman four years ago. Belarusian officials instead have registered an alternative, pro-government group called the Union of Belarusian Poles.

But Warsaw recognizes Borys's ZPB as the sole legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

The ZPB is a nonpolitical organization set up to promote the Polish language and cultural traditions among ethnic Poles living in Belarus. It says it has about 20,000 members.


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