Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, wants the bloc to return their ambassadors to Belarus within seven days, said EU diplomats on Thursday.
"Foreign ministers are to meet on March 22 and 23, and we want the ambassadors back in Minsk before then", an EU official told AFP, commenting on Ms. Ashton`s request, communicated to the national governments ahead of the high-level meeting in Brussels.
On March 23, EU foreign ministers are expected to consider expanding sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and the persecution of opposition and civil society activists, as well as against individuals and companies that support the Lukashenka regime.
On February 28, the Belarusian foreign ministry "recommended” that the head of the EU delegation to Belarus and the ambassador of Poland to Belarus return to their capitals for consultations, while simultaneously recalling the country`s permanent representative in Brussels and ambassador in Warsaw.
The decision was announced one day after the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on new Belarusian officials over alleged human rights violations.
All EU ambassadors have left Belarus since "in expression of solidarity and unity".
In an interview with the government’s news agency BelTA on Thursday, Maryya Vanshyna, head of the ministry’s press office, said that the Belarusian foreign ministry was unaware of whether the EU was willing to return its ambassadors to Minsk.
“We don’t have such information,” Ms. Vanshyna said. “However, if we reason soundly, how can we speak about the return of the ambassadors if the European Union itself constantly threatens us with imposing new sanctions on March 23. Let’s wait until this date first and then we will determine our stance, including with regard to the return of the ambassadors.”