Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Analysts predict further improvements in relations with West in 2017

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Analysts predict further improvements in relations with West in 2017
Valery Karbalevich, head of the Stratehiya (Strategy) think tank
Belarus will continue improving its relations with the West in 2017, according to political analysts.

Valery Karbalevich, head of the Stratehiya (Strategy) think tank, suggested that Minsk and the West would even intensify their dialogue this year.

"I don't rule out Belarus and the EU signing a visa facilitation agreement, which they have long talked about and in which, according to the Belarusian side, only some technicalities need to be ironed out," he told BelaPAN.

The EU will unlikely agree to start talks on a new cooperation agreement, which it believes may be discussed only after Minsk makes progress on democracy and human rights and abolishes the death penalty, Mr. Karbalevich warned.

Speaking about future relations with the United States, Mr. Karbalevich noted that Washington would hardly make steps to deteriorate relations with Minsk. "It may even abolish the sanctions, return its ambassador and raise the number of embassy staff," he said. "This is quite realistic and possible. I don't expect [the bilateral relationship] to change for the worse."

Dzyanis Melyantsow, an expert with the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, said that relations between Belarus and the EU would be developing "in a predictable manner" this year but no big progress should be expected. He added that Minsk and the 28-nation bloc could sign a visa facilitation agreement this year.

The analyst warned that Belarus and the United States were not expected to make big steps to improve their relations. "There will be no deterioration and there will be some gradual movement toward improvement, but without breakthroughs," he said.

Mr. Melyantsow predicted that new U.S. President Donald Trump could withdraw all restrictive measures targeting Belarus, but only as part of his possible decision to abolish all sanctions against Russia. "If not, then [Washington] will continue the slow process of abolishing [the sanctions]," he said. "We see that sanctions targeting specific companies are abolished once or twice a year. The Americans are in no rush, they have no evident reason to change something quickly. It is rather the Belarusian side that has a strong interest [in the abolition of the sanctions] and will initiate in one way or other various meetings and talks to get rid of these sanctions."