Updated at 22:06,23-05-2018

No preparations being made for Lukashenkas visit to Vatican, press secretary says

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Preparations for Alyaksandr Lukashenkas visit to the Vatican are not under way at present, the Belarusian leaders press secretary, Natallya Eysmant, told BelaPAN when asked about the possibility of such a visit in September.

These are just rumors, Ms. Eysmant said. Preparations for a specific visit scheduled for specific dates are not being made at the moment. Of course, there has been a spoken invitation for our president to come to the Vatican, but a specific visit is not currently on the agenda.

In a recent interview, Pavol Demesh, Slovakias former foreign minister, said that Mr. Lukashenka might visit the Vatican in September 2015. He said that the Belarusian leader might order the release of former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich before meeting with Pope Francis or immediately after the audience with the pontiff.

Pietro Parolin, secretary of state of the Holy See, told reporters in Minsk this past March that the Vatican was ready to grant Mr. Lukashenkas request for a visit.
There is all readiness on the part of the Holy See for such a visit, he said, adding that the possible visits dates had yet to be discussed.

Msgr. Parolin noted that the Holy See does not send invitations to political leaders for meetings with the pontiff. Such meetings are requested by those interested, but this doesnt rule out both sides interest in such meetings, he said.

In April 2009, Mr. Lukashenka, accompanied by his youngest son Kolya, visited the Vatican, having a 25-minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI. He repeatedly invited the German-born pontiff to visit Belarus.

Mr. Lukashenka is currently banned from entering the European Union for ordering a crackdown on civil society following the December 2010 presidential election.