CR, Belarus promote diplomatic missions to embassies

Prague, Sept 24 (CTK) - The Czech Republic and Belarus have promoted their diplomatic missions to the usual level of embassies, which indicates improvement of relations, CTK found at the web pages of the Presidential Office and the Foreign Ministry Friday.

The relations were tense due to Prague's serious criticism of President Alexandr Lukashenko's authoritarian regime.

As a result, the diplomatic representation was at the lower level of charge d'affaires.

This has changed now.

Foreign Ministry has said that Czech ambassador Jiri Karas is already in Belarus and Belarussian ambassador Vasili Markovich will submit his credentials to President Vaclav Klaus next Thursday.

The Belarussian ambassador has not been to the Czech Republic since 2002 when the Czech Republic refused to grant visas to Lukashenko when he wanted to come to the Prague summit of NATO.

The EU is now seeking better relations with Belarus. EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said it expected Belarus to cancel the death penalty, to end repression against opposition and to hold democratic elections.

After meeting Lukashenko in summer, Fuele said Minsk would have to delineate a road map of reform.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, told Fuele Belarus did not intend to blindly subordinate itself to EU demands.

However, Minsk has made some concessions.

Belarus is one of the six post-Soviet countries with which the EU launched the Eastern Partnership project during Czech EU presidency in the first months of 2009.

It is to ensure closer relationships with the EU.

Last year, President Vaclav Klaus made it clear Lukashenko was not welcomed at the opening meeting on the project in Prague.

Klaus said he would not receive or shake hands with him. Lukashenko said Klaus had rough manners and did not arrive.

There were a number of diplomatic rows in the past years. The two countries repeatedly expelled each other's diplomats.

Minsk refused to grant visas to some Czech politicians such as former senator and current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in 2006.


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