Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Lukashenka not to attend Eastern Partnership summit

Alyaksandr Lukashenka will probably not attend a summit in Prague on May 7 at which the European Union is to formally launch its Eastern Partnership program.

The president of Belarus is not among the registered summit participants, with the registration deadline being over, Jiri Frantisek Potuznik, spokesman for the Czech EU presidency told BelaPAN.

The spokesman refused to disclose who would represent Belarus at the summit, saying that the list of participants was not for publication. He said that the 27 EU member countries and the six post-Soviet countries to be involved in the Eastern Partnership program – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – would be represented at the summit by their top or next-to-top officials.

News sources in Prague and Brussels have reported that the Belarusian delegation to the summit will be led by First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka, but government sources in Minsk have neither confirmed nor denied this information. Alyaksandr Tsimashenka, press secretary of Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski, told BelaPAN on Friday that he did not know who would lead the Belarusian delegation. The foreign ministry would not disclose the list of the delegation’s members either, but the delegation will certainly include Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynaw.

The composition of the Belarusian delegation to the summit will be determined by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the minister told reporters in Riga on April 22 following his talks with his Latvian counterpart.

The Eastern Partnership, originally proposed by Poland and Sweden in May 2008, is viewed as a new multilateral forum between the EU and the six post-Soviet countries, which would forge closer economic and political ties, lead to visa-free travel deals and the establishment of a free trade zone, and prepare the countries for EU membership.

The EU leaders said last month that the Eastern Partnership would be used to support political, social and economic reforms in the post-Soviet countries, as well as "will help to build trust and develop closer ties among the six Eastern partners themselves."