Estonia leads EU foreign ministers' call for resolute response on Belarus

Minister of Foreign Affair Urmas Reinsalu.
Minister of Foreign Affair Urmas Reinsalu. Source: ERR

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has joined his counterparts in five other EU countries in calling for discussion on Belarus and the possibility of sanctions on that country in the wake of human rights violations following the recent presidential election. Reinsalu yesterday urged immediate action on the issue, adding that waiting till a planned meeting at the end of the month would be leaving things too late.

The foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic, as well as Estonia, issued a joint appeal to the High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell and the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, on Friday, following an EU foreign ministers meeting held remotely.

The address also stressed the role of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) EU initiative in supporting civic society in Belarus and the importance of support for independent journalism there.

Over 7,000 protesters have been detained in Belarus by the authorities own estimates, including one Estonian citizen. ERR's Moscow correspondent Anton Aleksejev , in Minsk, said earlier this week that journalists had been "disappearing" during the crackdown

The foreign ministers highlighted the fact that in the course of the recent presidential elections the people of Belarus have demonstrated the desire for democratic change. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests organised by the opposition have been violently suppressed by the authorities and oppressions continue.

The address also stressed the importance of dialogue, and petitioned the EU to adopt the role of mediator here.

The address also called for the immediate release of the thousands detained and raising this issue on international organizations, including the UN Human Rights Council.

Estonia is a non-permanent member of the UN Security council, and Reinsalu said Thursday he had already raised the matter there, a move which was met by protest from Russia's representative on the council. Russia is a permanent UN Security Council member; Belarus has never been a member.

Long-serving Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, was reelected for his sixth term on Sunday with officially a little over 80 percent of the vote, in elections widely condemned as rigged. The elections were met with protests inside Belarus and outside, including in Estonia. State security personnel have been cracking down on protesters in the capital, Minsk, and opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has taken refuge in Lithuania.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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