Estonia will not be sending an ambassador to Belarus, given that it does not recognize the presidential elections just over two years ago which returned Alexander Lukashenko for a sixth term, but at the same time, it will maintain a diplomatic presence in Minsk, to be headed up by former MEP Indrek Tarand, focused mainly on consular activity.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said: "This decision has been made. Sending an ambassador would mean their having to hand over their credentials to [Belarusian leader Alexander] Lukashenko, who is not recognized by the Republic of Estonia as a legitimate president, meaning our diplomatic communication will remain at the level of an official."
Mihkel Tamm, the ministry's PR director, says that the current situation shows the real state of our relations with Belarus and the political reality.
Tamm said: "Since the relations between our two countries are frozen, in fact - under such conditions, the actual sending of an ambassador to Minsk is not currently on the agenda, while the Estonian representative office in Minsk continues to work at a consular level, which in turn also corresponds to the current frozen state of our relations," said Tamm.
"While the issuing of visas is significantly limited, there is still work to be done with them and the embassy's work is still important in Minsk ... in aiding Estonian citizens, and also so that we can maintain a presence in Belarus, and obtain information directly from Minsk. Despite the fact that we have serious political differences, Belarus is a country that has a very significant impact on the security of our region," he went on.
To that end, Indrek Tarand will commence work as deputy head of mission.
Tarand told ERR that, taking into considering the low point in relations between the two countries, he will not be making any major plans for the time being.
He said: "It makes no sense to foresee anything especially creative, cultural or economic. However, on the other hand, Belarus has not been written off from among sovereign countries either. A country bordering our key allies Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine is still important to us, to some extent. Consular work still dominates in practice, but on the other hand ,coordination with those EU representations that are still in Minsk and, of course, to the extent that it is possible with, Belarusian officials, will go ahead."
Estonia's last ambassador to Belarus was Merike Kokajev, who finished her term, but her replacement, Jaak Lensment, was not sent to Minsk in the event, following a decision last July by Reinsalu's predecessor (in his current term) as foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets (Center).
The August 2020 presidential elections in Belarus were widely condemned in the west as rigged, and were followed by a violent crackdown on dissenters, as well as the forced landing in Minsk of a Ryanair jet, which was carrying a Belarusian opposition leader.
Belarus is also allied to the Russian Federation in the current conflict in Ukraine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte