Updated at 18:30,22-11-2017

Opposition politicians, civil society activists meet with UK Foreign Office`s political director

By Syarhey Karalevich, BelaPAN

Opposition politicians and civil society activists met with Simon Gass, director general for political affairs at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at the UK embassy in Minsk on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Belarus.

The meeting was attended by United Civic Party Chairman Anatol Lyabedzka; Tatsyana Karatkevich, a leader of the "Tell the Truth!" movement; Paval Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of Belarusian Christian Democracy; Yury Chavusaw, a legal expert at the Assembly of Democratic NGOs; and Valyantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the Vyasna Human Rights Center.

"During the 90-minute meeting the UK representative shared information about his meeting with Belarusian government officials," Mr. Lyabedzka told BelaPAN. "We for our part outlined our vision and opinion of the situation and possible solutions. I handed [Sir Simon Gass] an appeal signed by eight politicians concerning [the European Union`s] visa and financial sanctions."

The meeting also focused on this year`s elections for the House of Representatives, Belarus` economic situation and the possibility of the International Monetary Fund`s fresh loan for Belarus.

According to Mr. Lyabedzka, it is difficult to say what the UK diplomat thinks about the possible abolition or extension of the sanctions. "It seems to me that he understands what an authoritarian country is," said the politician.

Sir Simon Gass said that he had brought up political and human rights issues at his meetings with Belarusian authorities. "They see some progress but it is changes that are important to them and what they have seen is not enough for them to drastically change relations with Belarusian authorities," said Mr. Lyabedzka.
The politician said that the meeting had left him with a "positive aftertaste."

"We exchanged opinions on various issues," said Mr. Stefanovich. "I spoke about human rights, that we have not seen any systemic changes. One would like there to be a clear agenda concerning the subject of human rights. Touching on the subject of elections, we said that the OSCE recommendations have been relevant for many years, that some issues could be solved without changes to the Electoral Code, at the level of the central election commission`s directives."