Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

State Department: We closely follow Eduard Palchys trial

Zmicier Lukashuk, Euroradio

The news briefing by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affaires Bridget Brink was scheduled for 1800 on October 18 - deliberately as it later turned out. The U.S. State Department official began the press meeting with a statement that her country extended the suspension of sanctions against 9 Belarusian enterprises for another half-year. Right after the briefing, U.S. Department of Treasury disseminated a similar statement.

In practical sense, it means that American companies are allowed to make transactions with the Belarusian enterprises under sanctions.

“The softening of sanctions aims to enhance economic independence of Belarus, its political independence as well as its sovereignty and territorial integrity," noted Brink.

She said that during her meetings with Belarus Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei, the leaders of Belarusian opposition, civil society representatives and human rights defenders she stressed that the positive potential accumulated in bilateral relations between Belarus and the United States can be preserved only when Belarus follow the path of strengthening democracy and human rights.

Bridget Brink stated that over the past year of suspended sanctions and improved relations, U.S. Embassy was able to increase its mission staff, allowing to cooperate more closely with Belarus in the fields of trade and security.

“Normalization of relations is a multi-step process. The return of ambassadors is one of the steps in this process," said the U.S. high-ranking diplomat.

In order to expedite this normalization as soon as possible, Belarus has to stick to the OSCE ODIHR recommendations on the reform of electoral laws, namely the nomination of election commissions and transparent vote count. Nevertheless, she admitted:

“The decision to extend the suspension of sanction has been connected with how elections in Belarus were held. After the election, we made a statement that took into account the report of the OSCE ODIHR election observation mission. We welcomed the peaceful nature of the election campaign and that two alternative candidates were in parliament for the first time in 12 years. Of course, we also noted the negative moments.”

When asked by the Euroradio reporter how the new political prisoner in Belarus could affect the bilateral relations, Bridget Brink said:

"As you know, the release of 6 political prisoners in August 2015 was the step that influenced our initial decision to soften the sanctions. Today, we follow closely the case of Eduard Palchys [recognized by Belarusian human rights defenders as a political prisoner - Euroradio]. But I cannot say anything withi this regard, because there is a number of factors that are taken into account when the U.S. government determines whether this person is a political prisoner or not.”

Bridget Brink once again expressed hope that the process of relations normalization between Belarus and the United States will not stop in the future.