Lithuania has not changed its position with regard to Belarus, foreign minister says

Lithuania has not altered its position with regard to Belarus and continues suggesting that the Belarusian authorities should respect human rights and release all political prisoners, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Friday in Minsk while meeting with Belarusian opposition politicians and civil society activists.

Linas Linkevicius

As Aleh Hulak, chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, told BelaPAN following the meeting, participants discussed ways of modernizing and democratizing Belarus. They agreed on the need to urgently draw up a new agenda, including in view of the recent substantial changes in the European Parliament.

According to Alyaksey Yanukevich, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, Mr. Linkevicius was primarily interested to learn opinions about the political situation in Belarus and possible developments.

“Linkevicius told those present about his meetings with Belarusian government officials without going into details,” Mr. Yanukevich said. “He noted that the talks had focused on the development of local border traffic and trade and economic relations. He assured us that the issues of democracy and political prisoners would remain high on the agenda. We pointed out to him that although the recent release of [human rights defender] Ales Byalyatski should be viewed as a positive and important step, there are still seven political prisoners left in Belarus.”

“We also emphasized the need to expand ties between non-governmental organizations in Belarus and Lithuania, and to expand student exchange programs and business cooperation programs, as this can contribute to the democratization of Belarus and the promotion of European values in Belarusian society," Mr. Yanukevich said. "We suggested that Lithuania’s contacts with Belarusian authorities should not lead to restrictions on contacts with Belarus' civil society."

Apart from Messrs. Hulak and Yanukevich, the meeting was attended by Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party; Ales Byalyatski, leader of the Vyasna Human Rights Center; Mr. Byalyatski's wife Natallya Pinchuk; former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin; Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, chairperson of the “Tell the Truth!” movement; Stanislaw Shushkevich, Belarus’ formal head of state between 1991 and 1994; Pavel Sevyarynets, co-chairperson of Belarusian Christian Democracy; veteran opposition politician Vintsuk Vyachorka; Iryna Veshtard, chairperson of the Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party; Alyaksandr Arastovich, of the Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party; Maryna Lobawa, the mother of imprisoned young opposition activist Eduard Lobaw: and Maryna Adamovich, the wife of imprisoned former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich.