Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Lukashenka talks up relations with United States

By Iryna Lewshyna, BelaPAN

Belarus wants to normalize relations with the United States on mutually beneficial terms, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Minsk on Wednesday, speaking at a meeting with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Scott Rauland in connection with the end of the diplomat's tenure.

We have never hidden the fact that without the normalization of relations with the United States we will not have a full-fledged foreign policy, the presidential press office quoted Mr. Lukashenka as saying. We make no secret of our strong wish to have relations with the United States return to normal on mutually beneficial terms.

Mr. Lukashenka noted recent improvements in bilateral relations. Saying that everything is good in relations between our states would perhaps appear not quite sincere even diplomatically, he said. But you will perhaps not deny that things are way better than they were and that we are moving in the normal, right direction.

He noted that Minsk and Washington could do very much in the near future given the latter's good will.

Mr. Lukashenka said that Belarus had certain obligations to other countries, including Russia, China and India. These are our strategic allies, partners. We have concluded agreements to this effect with them, he said.

Referring to his meetings with U.S. businesspeople, Mr. Lukashenka said that they expressed a high opinion of Belarus' business environment and legal framework. He described Americans as sincere people who would like to have honest cooperation with Belarus.

I'm saying this for you to understand that we have no off-limits subjects in cooperation with you, he said. We have no obligations to any state that would run counter to our cooperation with the United States. Even Russians always tell us that having normal relations with Western Europe and the U.S. is absolutely acceptable and necessary.

Mr. Rauland, for his part, said that Belarus and the United States had achieved progress in bilateral relations in the last two years. He expressed gratitude to Mr. Lukashenka and the Belarusian foreign ministry for cooperation with the United States on many issues and expressed hope that it would give an impetus to the full normalization of relations in the future.

The diplomat said that Washington was ready to continue cooperation with Belarus and emphasized the importance of the country's sovereignty and independence.

Mr. Lukashenka said in response that independence and sovereignty are sacred, are an icon to me as president and to the Belarusian people. We will never agree to be a non-sovereign state, to be dependent on someone, he said.

Mr. Lukashenka promised that Belarus would do its utmost to preserve its independence.

Mr. Rauland will leave Belarus on July 8. He has served as U.S. charge d'affaires since July 2014.