Belarus relations ‘dynamic’: MFA

Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs spent Thursday and Friday on an official visit to Belarus before the weekend, meeting with top state officials like his counterpart Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President Alexander Lukashenko as well as representatives of civil society, underscoring what he termed “dynamism” in Latvia’s relations with its southeastern neighboring country.

To mark International Native Language Day Friday at the Janka Kupala State Literary Museum in Minsk, the Rinkēvičs spoke of the close links between the Latvian and Belarusian national cultures, highlighting links between the cultural legacies of poets Rainis and Janka Kupala. The Musuem named in the poet’s honor has established a cooperation with Latvia’s Association of Memorial Museums and will host an exhibition in honor of Rainis and Aspazija’s 150th birthdays celebrating the two ‘rebel’ and ‘humanist’ Latvian poets.

Later with President Lukashenko he focused in his discussions on the Eastern Partnership with the EU, the extremely tense regional security conditions and a host of various other bilateral issues, including business and cross-border cooperation, agriculture, protecting the shared environment and education, science and culture.

Latvia’s senior diplomat noted the EU is poised to expand its relations, however especially when the Belarusian Government is able to strengthen rule of law and human rights observance, including the release of political prisoners. In light of its Presidency of the Council of the EU, Rinkēvičš confirmed, Latvia would seek “tangible progress” on improving EU-Belarus relations.

At Latvia’s Embassy in Minsk Rinkēvičs also discussed with Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Oleg Gulak; the Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Centre, Ales Bialiatski; the Director of the Center for European Transformation, Andrei Jegorov; Senior Analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies, Denis Melyantsov; an expert from the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, Sergei Nikalyuk; and an observer of the Svobodnye Novosti paper, Valery Karbalevichconditions for human rights and a democratic society, encouraging representatives of local NGOs to take part in the Riga Summit forum on freedom of the press this spring.

Both President Lukashenko and the civil society representatives separately raised the importance of the issue of simplifying visa procedures between Belarus and Schengen Area member states (including Latvia) in order for Belarusians to experience more direct contact with Western Europe and European values as they visit these countries and learn about their democratic ways.

 

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