Belarus hardly to recognize independence of South Ossetia, Abkhazia: Russian Program Director at Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Although relations with Russia are important for Belarus, Minsk will hardly recognize the regions separated from Georgia - South Ossetia and Abkhazia, because it is seeking to keep a political balance in relations with the European Union (EU), one of leading European analysts Arkady Moshes believes.

"Minsk is in a kind of diplomatic game with Russia, indeed, as well as with the European Union," Moshes, Programme Director of Russia in the Regional and Global Context research programme of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Trend News in a telephone conversation from Helsinki.

The EU foreign ministers decided to prolong Belarusian President Alexander Lukhashenko's permission to visit European countries to one more month at a meeting in Brussels on March 16. It means that the president and 36 more senior Belarusian officials can visit any of 27 EU countries within 9 months.

Lukashenko who U.S. called as the "last European dictator" was not allowed to visit the unified Europe in 2006, because Europe and U.S. blame him for falsifying results of the presidential elections. The EU cancelled a visa ban, when the Belarusian government released political prisoners in 2008.

"Lukashenko is performing the very skillful and effective balancing act," said Moshes who is specialized in Belarus's foreign and interior policy. "This balancing will probably continue."

Moshes does not believe Lukashenko wants to give the recognition to these regions [Abkhazia and South Ossetia]. The president had by now 8 months to do it, he said. But Minsk so far did not recognize the independence of these states which declared their independence in August 2008.

"Minsk's refusal to recognize these two states was a kind of a surprise for Moscow in the beginning ," Moshes said. "But now it is less of a problem than before, because not too many countries followed Russia in recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

As a result of announcing independence by Georgia's two regions, a military conflict took place between Georgia and Russia, which supported these regions and recognized their independence, as well as established diplomatic relations with them on Sept. 9. Besides, Russia, only Nicaragua recognized independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moscow is seeking Belarus to recognize independence of the two regions of Georgia, as Russia traditionally regards Belarus as a sphere of its influence. The Kremlin expected Minsk's recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, especially after issuing $2 billion loan to the Belarusian government.

But Moshes expects more ties of Belarus with Europe and less ties with Russia in future. There are objective factors that demand the growing interaction between the Eastern European states and the European Union.

"For Eastern European states to feel growing attraction by the centre of gravity which is European Union is more logical," Moshes said.



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