OSCE shuts Minsk office but keeps eye on Belarus

Vienna - The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) closed its office in Belarus on Thursday and said it deeply regretted the government in Minsk would not allow it to operate it any longer.

Belarus did not extend the OSCE's mandate, after the Vienna-based organization had found serious flaws in the December election that won President Aleksander Lukashenko another term.

Even though the OSCE office is closed, the organization would keep monitoring trials of politicians, activists and others who have been charged in relation to the demonstrations, said Jens Eschenbaecher, a spokesman for the OSCE's human rights office in Warsaw.

The office's mandate ended in December, but OSCE officials stayed in Belarus for another three months to conclude several projects.

'For years, the OSCE Office in Minsk has benefited the people of Belarus,' Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said in Vilnius, on behalf of his country's current OSCE chairmanship. He added that he 'deeply regretted' that Belarus had not reconsidered its ban.

The OSCE had done important work in developing a civil society and in addressing the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighbouring Ukraine, Azubalis said in a statement issued in Vienna.


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