President Levits discusses Belarus situation

Latvian President Egils Levits on August 13 met with organisers of a civic protest in support of Belarusian people that took place in Riga yesterday. During the meeting in the Riga Castle, President Levits thanked Lolita Čigāne, Sandra Kalniete, Inese Vaivare, Kristīne Želve, Andris Gobiņš, Mārtiņš Vaivars and Selma Levrence for their active stance in support of free and democratic Belarus.

"I think it is very important for Latvian civic society to show its solidarity: when we fought for democracy and national independence thirty years ago, such solidarity was crucial for us, as well," said the head of state. 

"We needed every such manifestation of solidarity. In a way, given our past experience, we as a mature nation have to show solidarity to our neighbours who are defending their freedom and democracy. Organisers of the protest demonstrated our solidarity. Thank you for that! Turmoil in Belarus is not over yet. Hopefully, all tensions will be diffused, and Belarus will be able to continue developing as an independent and democratic state, and we will be able to enjoy continued friendship with our neighbour, Belarus," said Levits following the meeting.

Levits also told of his consultations with other regional heads of state and said that "today, we, the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, agreed to release a joint statement on the situation in our neighbouring country because Belarus is a country that borders with our three countries, members of the European Union." 

According to Levits, the statement will demand Belarusian government to "de-escalate the current situation and stop all forms of violence. Secondly, ensure all human rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Thirdly, restore dialogue with Belarusian society".

However, when the joint statement was released it contained the signatures of not three but four presidents, with the president of Estonia also included. It was styled as a "call for action" and the text is reproduced below.

We, Presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Estonia as neighbors of Belarus, members of NATO and the EU, want Belarus to be a stable, democratic, independent and prosperous country. Therefore, we call upon the President of the Republic of Belarus to:

1. de-escalate the situation and terminate the use of force against your people immediately. We urge to stop violence and call for respect of fundamental freedoms, human and citizen rights including the freedom of speech, media, assembly and safety of journalists;

2. urgently release all detained protesters, stop further persecution; 

3. immediately initiate a dialogue with the Belarusian people. Hear the voice of your citizens and let them speak out freely. Based on the experience of our own societies, and on our personal experience, we urge you to organize a national reconciliation roundtable, comprised of representatives of the government and civil society. This would represent an appropriate step in launching a genuine national dialogue. We strongly believe that dialogue is always the best path to advance social development, discuss reforms and the future of your country.

Should Belarusian authorities meet these requirements, the doors for cooperation with international community should remain open. Isolation is not a way for any nation’s prosperity and development.

We stand ready to offer our mediation efforts to reach a peaceful solution in Belarus and to strengthen your country’s independence and sovereignty.

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