Articles following the meeting of Foreign Minister of Belarus V.Makei with the press during his visit to Brussels (May 31,2018,Brussels)
BRUSSELS (Reuters) — Belarus has no plans to allow Russia to base troops on its territory, its foreign minister said on Thursday, but could review that if, for example, Poland were to host a permanent U.S. military presence.
Vladimir Makei, in Brussels to press a case for expanded cooperation with the European Union, told reporters that Minsk wanted to reduce tensions in the region and maintain good relations with the West and with its former rulers in Moscow. It felt a U.S. base in Poland would increase regional “mistrust”.
Asked if Polish proposals to host a U.S. base amid fears of Russian aggression could prompt Belarus to revise its rejection of any Russian base, Makei said: “I think there will be some reaction to this intention to deploy a new military air base.
“Nothing is impossible … As of today … we are not going to deploy new foreign military bases on the territory of Belarus because we would like to contribute to security in our region and we don’t want to be a troublemaker.
“So we are not going to deploy right now new military bases. But looking to the future we should take into account the future steps which will be taken by our neighbors.”
Makei stressed that Belarus, under Alexander Lukashenko who has been president of the former Soviet republic for 24 years, wanted to keep open “military dialogue” in the region, including maintaining “hot lines” to control tensions.
Belarus was still willing to provide peacekeeping forces to help resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, he said, an offer Lukashenko first made four years ago. A company of about 100 troops was ready and Belarus could send more, Makei said, adding there was new interest among the various parties.
After meeting EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who repeated Brussels’ demands for human rights improvements including an end to the death penalty as a condition for more EU aid, Makei said Belarus was intent on reforms toward democracy and on reducing state control of its economy to improve ties.
It was, however, keen to avoid hasty changes that might prove destabilizing.
Belarus remained eager to deepen its trade and other ties with Russia but also wanted to diversity its markets, including in trade with China, as well as with the EU and other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“China is a very important partner for us,” Makei said, noting a major Chinese investment in the Great Stone industrial park near Minsk, part of Beijing’s “new Silk Road” project promoting its trade routes to Europe.
Where 51 percent of Belarussian trade was currently with Russia and 27 percent with the EU, Makei cited a target of a balance of about a third of trade with Russia, a third with the EU and a third with the rest of the world.
He said that discussions with Europe’s EBRD development bank indicated that two Belarussian banks could be ready for privatization in a few months. Other privatization candidates included cement and building materials firm Krasnoselskstroymaterialy and the Krinitsa brewery.
The 2nd European Games* to be held next year in Minsk will open up Belarus to the world when it hosts the biggest multi-sport event on the continent from June 21-30.
In a frank briefing with leading news organisations at the Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that hosting this spectacular sporting occasion will throw the spotlight on the country’s political, social and economic development and he added that the country is ready to welcome the sporting world “with open arms”.
With over 6,000 athletes, coaches and officials from 50 countries expected to descend on Minsk, the 2nd European Games represent the largest sporting event ever hosted in Belarus, but Mr Makei stressed that the country is looking forward to using the occasion to showcase his country’s progress as a willing global partner to a worldwide audience.
“Part of our DNA is that we want to live in peace and stability,” said Mr Makei. “We have suffered very much in the past through the first and second world wars when our country was totally destroyed. Our cities’ infrastructure was totally destroyed.
“But the best way out of this situation and to avoid these dividing lines is through dialogue and to work with our partners to develop stronger and closer friendships that are irreversible.”
Mr Makei said that the European Games can help to transform the image of Belarus which has “lived in the shadows of big states” for a long time.
“The atmosphere in our relationships with the European countries, USA and the rest of the world is changing, and at the same time we are working hard to strengthen our relationship with Russia and our neighbouring states,” he said. “But it is not possible to get a true picture about the country without visiting, so I invite you (the western media) to visit Belarus because it will help to break the old vision and show the real picture of Belarus.”
The 2nd European Games will see sports played in 15 state-of-the-art stadia that are already in place but undergoing renovations in preparation to host 10 days of world-class action next summer.
Thousands of fans are also set to visit the country and Mr Makei said that plans are in place to ensure that the safety and security of all involved are a priority.
“We are in the process of introducing a 15-day visa for 80 countries which includes the EU so this will enable us to welcome the fans with open arms to Belarus,” he said. “Our President, Alexander Lukashenko, as a sportsman, is paying great attention to this event.
We want to change this negative image of Belarus in the western world and show that we are, in fact, a modern developed country that has taken a lot of steps in the right direction.”
Belarus has a solid track record in hosting major sporting events, including the 2014 IIHF World Championship for ice hockey which he described as a “great practice” for hosting the 2nd European Games.
Mr Makei used the briefing to highlight the great strides that have been made by Belarus as a country in recent years. He also believes the Games will help to open up and strengthen trade and economic relations for Belarus which wants to be positioned as a willing partner to the world.
“We live in a new age. No one knows what will happen in the next two or three decades. But we belong in the European family and we would like to accept the rules to be a part of this family.”
Foreign Minister says Minsk 2019 will open Belarus to the world
Belarus' Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei has claimed that the Minsk 2019 European Games will shine a spotlight on the country's political, social and economic development.
Minsk 2019 will be the largest sporting event that Belarus has ever hosted and Makei believes the country will use it as a showcase to show their progress.
Part of our DNA is that we want to live in peace and stability, he said.
We have suffered very much in the past through the First and Second World Wars when our country was totally destroyed.
"Our cities' infrastructure was totally destroyed.
"But the best way out of this situation and to avoid these dividing lines is through dialogue and to work with our partners to develop stronger and closer friendships that are irreversible."
The Foreign Minister added that he hopes Minsk 2019 can transform the image of Belarus, which has been criticised for supposed human rights abuses.
"The atmosphere in our relationships with the European countries, USA and the rest of the world is changing, and at the same time we are working hard to strengthen our relationship with Russia and our neighbouring states," he said.
"But it is not possible to get a true picture about the country without visiting, so I invite you to visit Belarus because it will help to break the old vision and show the real picture of Belarus."
Makei also outlined Belarus' plans for foreign visitors at the Games.
"We are in the process of introducing a 15-day visa for 80 countries which includes the EU so this will enable us to welcome the fans with open arms to Belarus," he said.
"Our President, Alexander Lukashenko, as a sportsman, is paying great attention to this event.
"We want to change this negative image of Belarus in the western world and show that we are, in fact, a modern developed country that has taken a lot of steps in the right direction."
More than 6,000 athletes, coaches and officials from 50 countries are expected to descend on Minsk for the second edition of the European Games.
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