Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Belarus expects EU to lift remaining sanctions, deputy foreign minister says

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Belarus expects EU to lift remaining sanctions, deputy foreign minister says
Belarus expects the European Union to fully abolish its sanctions targeting the country, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleh Krawchanka said in an interview published by Hungary's newspaper Magyar Hirlap.

"Most of the sanctions targeting Belarus were lifted last year, that laid the foundation for a new stage in Belarusian-European relations," Mr. Krawchanka said. "After almost 20 years we can finally speak about the serious normalization of relations. We expect the remaining sanctions to be lifted, although we understand that time is needed for that and are calm about that."

The deputy minister noted that Belarus and the EU were looking for "common ground, common interests, cooperation opportunities." "It seems to me that we have managed to overcome many disagreements," he said. "Of course, certain problems remain but we seek to find a compromise. Providing security in the region is certainly in the interest of both sides."

Belarus' role as the venue of international talks on securing peace in eastern Ukraine has boosted its image, Mr. Krawchanka acknowledged. "At the same time, Belarus offered to host the talks not for the purpose of gaining political dividends but for the sake of a speedy resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. We are interested to see the situation in the neighboring country, where many Belarusians reside, stabilize."

Mr. Krawchanka noted that Minsk's decision to grant a visa exemption to short-term visitors from 80 countries would also improve the country's image on the international stage. He added that the Western media's critical coverage of the situation in Belarus put off "potential partners." "It is important that as many foreigners, tourists, particularly journalists, as possible come to Belarus, that they see the country firsthand. We see that those who arrive in our country with a biased view are left pleasantly surprised in most cases," he said.

In February 2016, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union decided not to extend the bloc's restrictive measures against 170 Belarusian citizens, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and three companies.

However, entry bans and asset freezes remain in force for four persons implicated in high-profile disappearances in Belarus in 1999 and 2000, namely, former Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumaw, former Prosecutor General Viktar Sheyman, former Interior Minister Yury Sivakow, and Dzmitry Pawlichenka, a former commander of an Interior Troops unit.

In addition, the Foreign Affairs Council prolonged the embargo on arms sales for one year in February 2016.