Minsk ready to compromise on Customs Union

“We want only one thing: everything should be decent and any relations on a bilateral, trilateral or multilateral basis should be based on equal rights and respect,” Lukashenka says.

Belarus is ready to compromise on Customs Union agreements in response to “respectful treatment” on the part of Kazakhstan and Russia, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said while meeting with the Russian first deputy prime minister who arrived in Minsk on Tuesday, BelaPAN reports.

“We want only one thing: everything should be decent and any relations on a bilateral, trilateral or multilateral basis should be based on equal rights and respect,” the Belarusian leader’s press office quoted him as saying at the meeting with Igor Shuvalov. “If we see this happening, we will make any compromises and concessions that could be, perhaps, even difficult and sensitive for us during some period of time.”

Last week Kazakhstan and Russia agreed to put the Union into full-fledged operation on July 1 on a bilateral basis without Belarus. Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski boycotted the talks in St. Petersburg in protest against Russia’ export duty on crude oil supplied to Belarus.

Speaking after the meeting, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Belarus was welcome to join the Customs Union when it was ready.

Mr. Lukashenka told the Russian vice premier that Belarus “has always been an advocate of integration processes.” “It is not just a cliche,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “To be the most international country in the post-Soviet region is our image, and we always advocated integration even when we were afraid of talking about this.”

Mr. Lukashenka said that Belarus, “located in the center of Europe cannot die.” “We would not like to use any advantages of our state to the detriment of, above all, the Russians,” he said without elaborating.

He said that his meeting with Mr. Shuvalov could produce decisions that "could be implemented tomorrow.” “We can agree here on some issues that are sensitive for Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan,” he said.

Mr. Shuvalov said that he had been sent by President Dmitry Medvedev to Minsk to discuss the possible consequences of decisions on the Customs Union and “inform the Belarusian side of Russia’s stance on various issues, including the application of export duties” in order to find a compromise on issues "senstitive" to Belarus, according to the report.

A huge amount of work has been done in the last two years to allow the Union to come into full force on July 1, Mr. Shuvalov said.

Integration within the Customs Union and the single economic zone to be established by the three countries later is of benefit to all the partners, he stressed.

“The Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus seems to be a very interesting institution,” he said, suggesting that it could help Belarus increase the competitiveness of its goods and gain additional benefits.

The press office of the Belarusian Council of Ministers said following the Friday talks in St. Petersburg that a three-country Customs Union could still come into full existence on July 1. At the same time, it said, Russia’s export duty on oil supplied to Belarus runs counter to Customs Union agreements and international law and “harms the interests of the three countries’ economic entities and citizens.”