Belarus continues talks with Customs Union partners, says foreign ministry spokesman

Belarus continues talks with Kazakhstan and Russia in an attempt to settle differences over the three nations' Customs Union, with Minsk expected the negotiations to be a success, Andrey Savinykh, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, told reporters on Thursday, as quoted by BelaPAN.

“The Belarusian position remains unchanged,” Mr. Savinykh said. “We are strong advocates of integration, and we continue to comply with agreements concluded on the trilateral basis.”

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’s export duty on crude oil supplied to the country. Speaking after the meeting, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Belarus was welcome to join the Customs Union when it was ready.

Mr. Savinykh said that Kazakh-Russian agreements reached at the meeting in St. Petersburg “do not run counter to or hamper the development of the trilateral path.”

On June 1, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that Belarus was ready to compromise on Customs Union agreements in response to “respectful treatment” on the part of Kazakhstan and Russia.