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How Did Minsk React To Karen Stuart’s Departure?

How Did Minsk React To Karen Stuart’s Departure?
By Vladimir Golod
Radio Liberty
U.S. Ambassador Karen Stuart  left Minsk on 12 March. The Embassy’s official press release said that she went to Washington for short-term consultations.
“The U.S. policy about Belarus will not be any different after her departure. The main problem the United States wants to address is political prisoners. A dialogue will be possible once this issue is settled and the Belarusian side has done something specific to restore the human rights,” Secretary of the Belarusian Party of Communist Alena Skrigan said.
Political expert Igor Lynkov said that the U.S. Ambassador’s short leave is not a concession to the Belarusian authorities, it is an internal decision made by the U.S. government. “It’s very straightforward in the diplomatic language – when the Ambassador is called for consultations it shows that the country the Ambassador represents is not happy with what that is doing. The United States decided not to abandon the general practice and to use this opportunity.”
Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the United Civic Party, expressed certainty that the Belarusian government would try to avoid a further deterioration of relations with the United States.
In an interview with BelaPAN, Anatoly Lebedko said that the recalls of the ambassadors from Minsk and Washington would not affect the United States’ policy toward Belarus. “The USA has an absolutely clear position. America expects specific steps from Belarus, above all the release of all political prisoners. After that they are ready to begin relations with Belarus from scratch. If this does not happen, the USA will continue imposing sanctions targeting certain people and organizations,” the politician noted. Anatoly Lebedko said that Minsk and Washington would have to “sit at the negotiating table” in the future. “Alexander Lukashenko has already displayed political will and released several political prisoners. Now he needs to take the next step,” he noted.
The opposition politician stressed that the souring of relations between the two countries would have worse consequences for Belarus. “Washington can influence Brussels’ stance. The latter will hardly takes sides with Belarus. And in this case Belarus will face much bigger sanctions,” he said.
Valentin Simirsky, chairman of the international affairs committee in the House of Representatives, accused the United States of breaching earlier agreements with Belarus. “Apart from this, the people whose release the USA demands cannot be regarded as political prisoners. On the whole, they attach too big an importance to this issue, which results in interference in Belarus’ internal affairs,” he told BelaPAN. Valentin Simirsky noted that Washington “is doing wrong.” “One cannot build relations with a sovereign state this way,” he said.
The lawmaker predicted that bilateral relations would not continue worsening. “They need to hold consultations and draw appropriate conclusions. The issue can be settled through diplomatic contacts,” he said.
Anatoly Krasutsky, the Deputy Chairman of the international affairs committee in the House of Representatives, reckons that Mrs Stuart’s departure is a very particular signal from Washington. “It says that the U.S. government doesn’t want to take the situation to the extreme. It’s a way to keep status quo between the embassies. I think we will find out what the consultations for both Ambassadors were meant for.”
International observer Roman Yakolevsky said that problems in Belarusian-American relations would also be getting solved at various informal meetings that are already taking place. “Probably nobody noticed that on the day when the Ambassadors from the OSCE member-states were invited to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Minister was not present in Minsk. The official details said that he was in Rome at the funerals of the Great Maltese Magistrate. Foreign Minister Martynov probably had an opportunity for unofficial contacts with some European leaders and also with top U.S. officials. Funerals are very suitable events for secret diplomacy around the world.”


14 Марта, 2008
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