Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Ambassador gives EU sanctions warning

The European Union "needs Belarus help" for lifting its sanctions against the countrys top government officials, Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

Sweden took over the European Unions six-month rotating presidency on July 1.

The 27-nation bloc will start considering whether or not to abolish the sanctions in October and a decision on the matter is likely to be made the following month. "Hopefully, the Belarusian side will take appropriate steps so that the EU can make the right decision," Mr. Eriksson said.

The diplomat would not say what steps the EU expects Minsk to take in the next few months, noting that the Belarusian authorities were aware of the blocs "recommendations." "The normalization of relations is in the interests of the European Union and Belarus. Dialogue and movement are what matter most," he stressed.

Mr. Eriksson said that the European Union welcomed the steps made by the Belarusian authorities. "We will work further to ensure that dialogue and contacts between Belarus and the EU continue. It is also important to have dialogue with authorities and civil society simultaneously," he noted.

The ambassador said that Sweden would raise human rights issues during the six-month period.