News / Europe

US, EU to Review Belarus Relations After Minsk Crackdown

Riot police clash with demonstrators trying to storm the government building in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010
Riot police clash with demonstrators trying to storm the government building in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010

The United States and European Union say they will review their relations with Belarus following the Minsk government's crackdown on opposition members after a disputed presidential election. U.S. and European officials reject the legitimacy of the vote-count last Sunday that gave longtime President Alexander Lukashenko an overwhelming win.

The strongly-worded joint statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton reflects the degree of dismay and disappointment over what had been seen as an opportunity for Belarus to shed its authoritarian image.

Official returns from the nominally-contested December 19 vote gave Mr. Lukashenko, a former Soviet official and the country's ruler since 1994, nearly 80 per cent of the vote.

Security forces arrested more than 600 people after a massive rally gathered in central Minsk election night to protest an outcome widely seen by Western observers as fraudulent.

In their joint statement, Clinton and Ashton called for the immediate release of the protesters, including at least seven opposition presidential candidates, and strongly condemned what they termed the "disproportionate" use of force against demonstrators.

They said that taken together, the election and its aftermath represent an "unfortunate step backwards" in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights in Belarus, and that the people of the country "deserve better."

Clinton and Ashton said they will take the Lukashenko government's efforts to address the current situation into account as relations with Belarus are reviewed.

There was no indication of what the outcome of the review might be. But State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said this week U.S. sanctions against Belarus, in place since a disputed 2004 referendum that allowed Mr. Lukashenko a third term in office, will remain.

"Belarus and - President Lukashenko may well be a country that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Our sanctions will continue in place, and it's tragic what Belarus - what has happened in Belarus," said Crowley. "Respect for the democratic process and human rights of its citizens is at the center of our relationship and our aspirations for Belarus."

Hopes for change in Belarus had risen in recent years amid conciliatory gestures by the Lukashenko government including its release in 2008 of what were then considered the country's last political prisoners.

Early this month, on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Kazakhstan, Clinton and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov announced an agreement under which Belarus will give up a stockpile of Soviet-era highly enriched uranium.

Spokesman Crowley on Tuesday expressed hope the election controversy will not derail the nuclear agreement, which he said is important for the world community and other states in the region.

Clinton and High Representative Ashton said the United States and EU intend to continue engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society representatives.

They urged Belarus to meet commitments to the OSCE and reform the electoral process, and to "create political space" for activists, civil society and independent journalists.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs