Belarus FM wants Austria to help promote ties with EU

VIENNA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov expressed hope here Thursday that Austria could play an important role to help promote the relationship between Belarus and the European Union (EU).

Martynov, who is now visiting Austria, said after holding talks with his Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger that the bilateral relations were "good and special".

He believed that Austria could not only play "an important role" in Eastern Europe, but could also be "an important factor" to help Belarus improve ties with the EU.

Spindelegger also pointed out that there was "good cooperation" between Austria and Belarus. Both sides "agree on actively intensifying the cooperation between the two countries".

Martynov criticized a recent EU decision to prolong sanctions against the government of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for what it called a lack of progress on democratic reforms.

In November, the EU extended for another year an assets freeze against officials in Lukashenko's government, although it temporarily suspended other sanctions, including a travel ban on senior Belarusian officials.

Martynov said the decision was contradictory and "based on double standards".

On the issue of the death penalty, Martynov said it was introduced in Belarus by a referendum, representing the wishes of the majority of citizens.

Martynov's visit to Austria is the first official visit of a Belarusian senior official to Austria in 10 years. He will also meet Austrian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Josef Proll on Thursday afternoon.


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