EU ready to review sanctions against Belarus

BRUSSELS, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - European foreign ministers said on Monday that sanctions against Belarus could be lifted if the country holds its September 28 parliamentary elections in a "democratic" fashion.

A statement released after a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers said the EU would "re-assess the situation in Belarus in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections and Belarus's progress towards democratic values and human rights, and is ready to start reviewing sanctions against Belarusian officials."

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, earlier dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, and other top Belarusian officials are currently banned from visiting the EU due to a clamp down on political dissent and other human rights violations in the country. The EU has also suspended bilateral ministerial meetings with the country and expelled Belarus from the system of trade benefits.

The document said however that a new approach to Belarus became possible after Belarusian authorities released three political prisoners last month.

It also said the EU was ready to improve relations with Belarus and to take positive and concrete measures for this purpose, such as holding EU-Belarus foreign ministerial meetings.

The EU also voiced its intentions to expand political, trade and cultural exchanges with Belarus, including opening up to the country its 'neighborhood' economic aid program.

Some EU politicians have also said that it would be pertinent at the current time to hold out a hand to Belarus as the country is coming under pressure from Russia to join it in recognizing the Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.



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