Lithuanian foreign minister: Everyone's talking to Putin, why can't we talk to Belarus?
Lithuania must maintain a dialogue with the Belarusian government, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius said on Wednesday, noting that Western leader are holding meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite ongoing events in Ukraine.
"The dialogue with Russia is taking place. Presidents are talking, going, meeting in the VIP area during a football match in Brazil, talking during meetings in Moscow. Why can't we talk to Belarus?" Linkevičius said, addressing Lithuania's ambassadors who gathered in Vilnius for an annual meeting.
He referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent meeting with Putin on the eve of the FIFA World Cupfinal in Brazil.
According to the Lithuanian foreign minister, one has to admit that there are „bad things“ in Belarus and must raise the issue of political prisoners. But it's also important to state that Minsk has not recognized the occupation of Ukrainian and Georgian territories by Russia.
"Belarus, nevertheless, has not recognized the Crimean occupation, the occupation of Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia. And that's a certain position. It's our neighbour and economic partner," the head of Lithuania's diplomacy said.
"Only through speaking and not building walls" can the West influence Belarus, the foreign minister said.
There are now EU and US sanctions in place against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for two decades, as well as other high-ranking officials. They were imposed in response to human rights violations and a crackdown on the opposition.
Russian President Putin and top officials in the Kremlin, on the other hand, have so far not faced similar measures as only secondary officials and separatists have been subjected to visa restrictions.