Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Belarus to close embassy in Israel in reciprocal step

Tanya KOROVENKOVA, BelaPAN

Belarus will close its embassy in Israel in a reciprocal step, Dzmitry Mironchyk, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, said in a statement on January 7.

The step will be made in response to Israel’s decision to close its embassy in Minsk, he explained.

«It is with regret that we have to confirm that in connection with Israel’s decision to close its embassy in Minsk Belarus, being guided by the principle of reciprocity, also has to take a set of measures to end the activity of its diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv,» said the statement.

«We believe that the Israeli side is making a mistake by ignoring the fact that we are connected by the fates of tens of thousands of people, to whom Israel and Belarus are close and native countries, as well as the general positive dynamics of bilateral relations in various spheres,» said Mr. Mironchyk.

He said that Israel «made a similar incorrect step» in 2003 and «had to correct it less than a year later.»

«We are certain that the maintenance of relations between Belarus and Israel at the level of embassies is an objective necessity and the resumption of their activity is just a matter of time,» said the statement.

The Israeli government said last year that it may close several embassies, including the diplomatic mission in Minsk, as part of its cost-cutting campaign.

A Belarusian-Israeli agreement on visa-free travel took effect in November 2015, allowing citizens of the two countries to stay in the other country for up to 90 days within six months without a visa.