Foreign minister: Lukashenko wants to be recognized as president of Belarus
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko wants to be recognized as the legally elected president and for sanctions to be lifted in return for ending the migrant crisis on Europe's borders, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said on Tuesday.
Liimets said the ministry had preliminary information a call would take place between Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.
"He wants the sanctions to be stopped, [and] to be recognized as head of state so he can continue," Liimets told ETV's evening news program "Aktuaalne kaamera", when asked what Lukashenko's demands are for ending the situation.
Asked how she knew this information, Liimets said: "The details of exactly what he said, we, of course, expect the German side to officially inform us about, but we have preliminary information that [Lukashenko] does not want sanctions. What is very important is that the European Union sticks to its principles and values and continues to pursue this policy, as we have seen in recent months."
"In our view, it is important that the European Union remains united and exerts its influence on Belarus through action," Liimets said, adding new sanctions should be created as soon as possible.
On Monday, the EU's foreign ministers agreed sanctions should target individuals and businesses which facilitate the illegal crossing of the EU's external borders.
Liimets said this means sanctions can now be imposed for human rights violations.
Monday's call from Merkel to Lukashenko was the first by a western leader since rigged presidential elections in August 2020 handed him 80 percent of the vote. EU leaders do not recognize Lukashenko as president of Belarus.
Update: This article was updated at 4 p.m. on November 18 on the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to say Liimets had preliminary information about the call.
The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko and the security services cracked down on opposition protestors and civil society following the election. More were applied after the forced landing of a Ryanair plane flying in Belarusian airspace in May leading to the arrest of an opposition journalist at Minsk Aiport.
In retaliation, Lukashenko threatened to send "migrants and drugs" to Europe. Soon after, migrants, mostly from the middle east, started trying to cross the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. The situation then expanded to Latvia and Poland and has continued for months. All three countries have been pushing the migrants back into Belarus.
For the last 10 days, thousands of migrants have been stuck on the Belarusian side of the Belarus-Poland border in freezing temperatures.
Lithuania, Latvia and Poland have been the biggest supporters of the Belarusian opposition movement. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to, and now resides in, Vilnius after the election last year.
Estonia, which does not border Belarus, has been offering support to Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and raising awareness of the situation.
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Editor: Helen Wright