Foreign minister: Belarus' future is in hands of its people
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has highlighted the plight of the Belarusian people at the UN Security Council (UNSC), where Estonia holds a non-permanent seat, noting that the solution to the issue also lies with the people of that country.
Reinsalu led the first Belarus-focussed UNSC meeting Friday, via video linkup, saying that it was aimed at helping to end repression in that country, and a deterioration in the situation, following the return to power of President Alexander Lukashenko last month, for a sixth consecutive term, in elections widely condemned as rigged.
The meeting followed the so-called Arria-Formula referring to informal meetings convened at the initiative of UNSC member states.
The highest profile Belarusian opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, also addressed the meeting, saying that a nation could not and should not be hostage to one individual's thirst for power.
Estonia had invited Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since last month, to take part.
Urmas Reinsalu raised the unlawful detaining, torture and sexual harassment of peaceful protesters, and restrictions on free press and the internet. "This must stop immediately," he said, according to a ministry press release.
Dialogue with both the Belarus authorities and its populace, leading to fresh, free and fair elections, is also crucial, Reinsalu said.
"It is all too often that we witness moments of stalemate between people and dictators. And we have seen what happens when free and fair elections fail, and when the legitimate grievances of people are not met," he went on, also expressing his admiration for the courage and peaceful resolve of the people of Belarus.
Anaïs Marin, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center Valiantsin Stefanovic, and legal expert with the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich, also addressed the meeting and gave an overview of the situation.
The event, which was open to all UN Member States' representatives, was co-sponsored by permanent UNSC members the U.S. and the U.K., along with Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and several other countries.
Over 30 UN member states made statements on Belarus, as did the EU's head of delegation to the UN.
Reinsalu's full statement is here.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte