Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Foreign Minister Makey invited to Eastern Partnership meeting in Krakow

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Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey has been invited to a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership participating countries that will take place in Krakow, Poland, on May 17.

"We handed the invitation to Uladzimir Makey after consulting our EU partners," Sebastian Orzel, spokesman for the Polish embassy in Minsk, told BelaPAN. "However, we have found out that Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna will represent Belarus at the meeting instead of Makey."

Mr. Makey is on the EUs list of 243 Belarusian citizens who are subject to travel bans and asset freezes within the EU for their role in human rights violations in Belarus and support of the current regime.

According to the Polish foreign ministry, the meeting will be held in the context of Polands presidency in the Visegrad Group to discuss the implementation of the EUs Eastern Partnership program and the forthcoming Eastern Partnership summit, which is scheduled to take place in Vilnius in November.

The meeting will feature Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Stefan Fule, the EUs commissioner for enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy.

"The ministers will also discuss possibilities of assisting Eastern partners in their measures for closer integration with the EU," the ministry said. "The agenda will also include discussions on the situation in the individual partner countries and on the EaPs [Eastern Partnerships] future after the Vilnius summit."

The Eastern Partnership program was launched at a summit in Prague, the Czech Republic, on May 7, 2009, with 33 countries participating: the 27 member states of the EU and six partner countries (Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Belarus). The program is aimed at enhancing and improving the EU`s political and economic cooperation with these six post-Soviet countries.

After the Belarusian authorities crackdown on political opponents following a presidential election in late 2010, the EU suspended high-level contacts with the Belarusian government. Belarus refused to take part in an Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw in 2011 and a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and Eastern Partnership participating countries in Prague in March 2012.

In a statement adopted at the meeting, participants expressed concern about what they called a lack of any improvement in the human rights situation in Belarus and the continuing repression of civil society combined with the absence of any deep democratic and economic reforms. They stressed that a dialogue with the Belarusian government could only be resumed after a substantial change in its policy and the release and exoneration of all political prisoners. // BelaPAN