Foreign minister calls for concrete EU measures on Belarus

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) at Thursday's regular government press conference.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) at Thursday's regular government press conference. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says concrete steps must be taken towards and effective response from the European Union and western nations as a whole to repression in Belarus which has followed Sunday's presidential election. Reinsalu has also raised the issue at the UN Security Council (UNSC), where Estonia holds a non-permanent seat, a move which was met with protest from the Russian representative.

"The current situation in Belarus is such that it requires swift and decisive action from the EU nations and the Western community," Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said at Thursday's scheduled government press conference.

Reinsalu, who said he had met with Belarusian civic activists in Tallinn earlier on Thursday, stressed the importance of pushing for an end to violence against unarmed protesters and the immediate release of those detained for political reasons, including an Estonian citizen who has reportedly been placed into custody in Belarus.

Alexander Lukashenko was returned for a sixth term Sunday in elections widely condemned as rigged. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya  has taken refuge in neighboring Lithuania.

Belarusian authorities themselves have said close to 7,000 protesters have been arrested.

Poland has proposed an EU Foreign Affairs Council committee meeting – originally planned for the end of the month – to be brought forward.

Reinsalu agreed, saying that the meeting should take place Friday afternoon, in an effort to achieve concrete results and to issue a statement in support of the promotion of democracy and an end to repression in Belarus.

The foreign ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the violence in the Lukashenko election aftermath.

Naming names among those responsible for the violence and imposing sanctions accordingly was one of the steps that needs to be taken, Reinsalu added.

The foreign minister also said that he had raised the situation in Belarus at the UNSC.

"Yesterday I raised this issue with the UNSC … this was met with a protest from the Russian representative," Reinsalu said, adding that Estonia is ready to continue this issue in the UN Security Council. 

The Russian Federation holds a permanent seat on the UNSC.

All information points towards elections which were neither free, fair or democratic, the foreign minister said, prompting the need for dialogue and further steps.

Prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) has also spoken in support of Belarus and in the proposed EU foreign minister's meeting.

"The EU's foreign ministers will meet tomorrow and the European Union's response must be coherent, timely and robust. There must be every opportunity to assess EU-Belarus relations. We certainly condemn all political repression and violence against the opposition. And we call Belarus will immediately end violence against protesters, " Ratas said Thursday.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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