EXTRA: We will reward fair elections, EU tells Belarus

Author : DPA

Brussels - The European Union will reward Belarus with stronger official, economic and cultural relations if elections scheduled for September 28 are sufficiently fair, EU foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. But the EU will not make any moves before the elections, even though the Belarusian regime in August released its last political prisoners, the ministers added in a move which disappoints the hopes of a number of Eastern member states.

The September 28 elections are "another opportunity for Belarus to show its respect for democratic values," and the EU "is ready to re- examine" the sanctions it currently maintains against regime members and "take positive and concrete steps which could lead to a progressive re-engagement with Belarus," a statement said.

That could include an increase in "official, commercial and cultural contacts," the statement said.

But such a decision would only be taken "in the light of the elections and the progress made by Belarus towards the values of democracy and human rights," the ministers warned.

After Belarus released its last political prisoners between August 16 and 20 August, a number of EU member states, particularly Poland and Lithuania, urged the bloc to open direct talks with Belarusian leaders in order to encourage them to hold free elections.

The advocates of such a stance argued that the EU should do more to support the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko against pressure from Moscow in the wake of August's Russian-Georgian war.

However, foreign ministers of the EU's 27 member states contented themselves with "hailing" the release of prisoners, while stressing that the EU "remains concerned by other important aspects of the human-rights situation in Belarus".



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