Updated at 18:30,22-11-2017

Existence of political prisoners impedes progress in Belarus-EU relations, official says

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The existence of political prisoners in Belarus impedes further progress in political relations between Minsk and the European Union, Andrejs Pildegovics, state secretary at the foreign ministry of Latvia, said in Riga on Tuesday.

EU representatives constantly bring up the need for the release of all political prisoners at their meetings with Belarusian authorities, he stressed.

The official expressed hope that all political prisoners would be freed and that Minsk would move toward greater respect for democratic freedoms. However, he added, there has been no progress so far.

The EU hopes that representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and European human rights organizations will be able to monitor Belarus` presidential election later this year, according to Mr. Pildegovics.

The EU is also hopeful that the Belarusian government will allow different opinions to be expressed in the run-up to the vote and will not persecute opposition candidates, he said.