Lukashenko seeks closer ties between Belarus and EU

MINSK, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday his country was ready to develop closer ties with the European Union.

The EU has been seeking to mend relations with Belarus, and earlier this month prolonged the suspension of a travel ban that had been imposed on Lukashenko.

"As we are located in the center of Europe, we [Belarus] would like to have the friendliest relations with our neighbors - the European Union. Obviously living in the 21st century and looking at each other through a fence is not a suitable perspective," Lukashenko told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos at a meeting in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

Lukashenko also commented that half of Belarus' trade turnover was with the EC.

The Spanish foreign minister said that Spain, which currently holds the rotating chair in the Council of Europe and will take over the EU presidency in 2010, believes it is important to establish contacts with Belarus.

"Your geographical location... gives Belarus an important meaning. It is wonderful that you enjoy such good relations with Russia. There is definitely a good chance of Belarus enjoying the same good relations with the European Union," Moratinos said.

At the last EU summit, on March 19-20 in Brussels, Belarus was included in the EU's Eastern Partnership project along with a number of other ex-Soviet republics.

The Eastern Partnership project, which aims to improve human rights and the rule of law in former Soviet states, as well as strengthen their ties with the EU, also includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The ban on Alexander Lukashenko entering EU countries was imposed in 2006 in connection with election fraud and human rights violations. However, the 27-nation bloc suspended the ban last October, after several political prisoners were freed in Belarus.



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