Belarus is trying to capitalize on her transit status in the West
On March 28th, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey met with Lithuania’s Deputy Foreign Minister Krivas. Belarusian-Lithuanian ministerial consultations resulted in a number of agreements, inter alia, in transportation field.
An important economic incentive stimulating Minsk-Vilnius interactions is the Belarus’ potential participation in the NATO cargo troops withdrawal project in Afghanistan. There is nt public information about the agreements’ content, which could mean that bargaining is still in progress.
Transit cargo shipping was one of the topics discussed during the Belarusian-Lithuanian consultations, and most likely it related to the most topical regional logistics project for 2013-2014 – NATO cargo transportation from Afghanistan within the Northern Distribution Network.
In Eastern Europe the NDN logistics network uses three Baltic ports: Riga, Tallinn and Klaipeda. Among them, only Klaipeda port is ice-free. Therefore, in Lithuania’s views Belarusian railway network looks very profitable, especially if unofficial information about NATO’s refusal to use Uliyanovsk airport as a transit point is confirmed.
Belarus is also interested in participating in the profitable logistics projects. In January President Lukashenko met with American Institute Jamestown Foundation experts, who are known for their efforts in promoting NDN project in Eastern Europe. Belarusian-Lithuanian ministerial consultations’ agenda also covered preparations for the 9th Lithuanian-Belarusian economic forum to be held in Klaipeda.
Nevertheless, there is no official information about the outcomes of these consultations, implying that the parties have not reached agreements and will continue negotiations. In particular, it is likely that Belarus has included in its political negotiations package a demand to lift visa and economic sanctions against Belarusian citizens. It is known that Lithuania reiterated the condition for the normalization of relations with Belarus, i.e. the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners.