Belarusian representatives at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting convened on Monday failed to provide adequate answers to questions on joint military exercises held by Russia and Belarus, on the latter's territory. The queries had first been presented by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania last week and the meeting was called after the initial, written responses had been deemed unsatisfactory.
Estonia's permanent representative to the OSCE Sander Soone confirmed via a spokesperson that Belarus did not provide adequate answers at Monday's meeting, to questions posed by all three Baltic States.
The response was not clear, according to Estonia's OSCE representation.
Representatives from almost all OSCE member states had attended the meeting.
The three Baltic States will decide on their next steps, in close consultation with one another, Soone added.
He said "As for the next steps, we will definitely continue consultations with our Baltic neighbors. As we have stated before, it is vital that in the current security situation, every party shows openness and readiness for dialogue."
Today #ViennaDocument consultations initiated by on BY and RU large scale military activities in BY. No clear response given. Need to give diplomacy a chance. Call on RU and BY to de-escalate tensions.— Estonia in the OSCE (@EstoniaOSCE) February 14, 2022
The meeting was the result of unsatisfactory written answers to the questions provided by Lithuania, on behalf of all three Baltic States.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Minsk's responses to calls for clarification "insufficient, prompting the three countries to hold Monday's consultations with Belarus under the terms of the OSCE Vienna Document.
Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are all OSCE members.
NATO says that more Russian Federation military personnel are on the ground in Belarus than at any time since the Cold War, primarily to take part in what Russia's defense ministry calls Exercise Soyuznaya Reshimost ("Allied Resolve") 2022, which it says is defensive in nature.
However, not only has the U.S. referred to the exercise as inflaming tensions in an already fraught situation, but also the number of personnel involved is thought to far exceed the minimum 9,000 beyond which OSCE member states are obliged to inform neighboring member states about the activities.
Leadership in the West has also expressed scepticism over claims from Minsk and from Moscow that all the military personnel would leave Belarus once the exercise is finished.
The OSCE's Vienna Document permits all 57 member states to request exercise information if and when another member state's troop movements are cause for concern.
Editor: Andrew Whyte