European Union takes first step to slap new sanctions on Belarus, debates Turkey crisis

WION Web Team Brussels, Belgium Aug 14, 2020, 10.52 PM(IST)

Protests in Belarus over strongman Lukashenko's election Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

As Lukashenko's main opposition challenger called for mass weekend rallies to denounce the long-standing leader's disputed claim of re-election, his western neighbours are stepping up pressure.  

European Union foreign ministers on Friday took the first step towards imposing new sanctions on Belarus by agreeing to drawing up a list of individuals to be blacklisted in response to strongman Alexander Lukashenko's post-election crackdown.

At a videoconference hosted by Brussels' diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, the foreign ministers also agreed to take up the stand-off between Greece and Turkey at their next face-to-face talks.

As Lukashenko's main opposition challenger called for mass weekend rallies to denounce the long-standing leader's disputed claim of re-election, his western neighbours are stepping up pressure.  

Also see: Thousands stage flower protest in Belarus as EU weighs sanctions

"The foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on those responsible for the repression and a list of names will be drawn up," one European official said.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in a tweet that the "EU will now initiate a process of sanctions against those responsible for the violence, arrests and fraud in connection with the election."

Once the list is finalised, each individual or entity on it will have to be approved unanimously by member states, but officials said none of the 27 raised objections to the idea of sanctions.

At least six other European Union states are broadly in favour of imposing sanctions. While Austria, Sweden and Germany lead the hawkish camp, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and the Baltic states have also called for mediation between Lukashenko and the opposition.

Ahead of the meeting there had been calls for action from several EU members, especially Belarus' neighbours Poland and Lithuania, which is now hosting exiled opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania say they are ready to act as mediators to try to resolve the post-election crisis, after a poll that Brussels has already said was "neither free nor fair".

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has spoken to Tikhanovskaya and, according to his spokesman, she is ready to help him implement a plan for "peaceful dialogue" to resolve the crisis.

Lithuania also on Friday offered to treat Belarusians injured during the protests and suggested setting up the EU fund to support "the victims of repression".