News / Europe

EU Pulls Ambassadors Out of Belarus

The Head of EU Delegation to Belarus, Ambassador Maira Mora walks in central Minsk, February 28, 2012
The Head of EU Delegation to Belarus, Ambassador Maira Mora walks in central Minsk, February 28, 2012

European Union members are pulling all their ambassadors from Belarus after its the authoritarian government ordered the Polish and EU ambassadors out of the country.

Belarus ordered the envoys to leave in reaction to new EU sanctions imposed against Belarusian officials because of that country's poor human rights record.

A Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman says the country will not cave in under pressure and will continue to defend its interests.

"The decision of the EU Council to impose new sanctions against Belarussian officials means that the European Union is continuing with its policy of unabashed pressure," said the spokesman. "We explained many times and at all levels that
this policy does not have any prospects in regards to Republic of Belarus. As a response, Belarus will forbid entry to Belarus to those individuals who helped introduce those restricting measures.''

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle calls Belarus Europe's last dictatorship. He says President Alexander Lukashenko only fools himself if he thinks he can divide the EU.

"This is the last dictatorship, this is the last dictator in Europe, and we will not let ourselves be intimidated by such actions against one European institutions or against one member state," said Westerwelle. "The European Union and Poland can rely on Germany's solidarity. We will not let others divide us. The dictator fools himself when he thinks he can divide us. We will react together. I suggest that we all recall our ambassadors from Belarus to our capitals. This is what Germany will do.''

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the United States it deeply regrets Belarus' decision to expel the Polish and EU ambassadors. He says such moves only deepen Belarus' self-isolation.

The EU and United States increased sanctions on Belarus after the violent crackdown on the opposition following the December 2010 presidential election. Hundreds were arrested including a number of opposition candidates.

Human rights groups say many of those arrested are still in jail.

Lukashenko won reelection in a vote many opposition members say was fraudulent.

The head of the EU delegation to Belarus and the ambassador of Poland to Belarus have also been offered to leave to their capitals to bring the message to their leadership about a strong view in Belarus that any pressure
or sanctions are inadmissible. If the pressure on Republic of Belarus is to continue, other measures to defend our interests will also be taken.''

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