Contacts between Belarus and the West continue to crescendo
Last week, numerous events in Belarus’ Western policy direction had an impact on both, bilateral and multilateral relations between Minsk and the West, including on political, economic and military matters.
Last week started with a visit by the Working Party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) of the EU Council for Foreign Affairs, a preparatory body having a very important influence on EU foreign policy decisions. The delegation held talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Aleh Krauchanka on the state of political dialogue and sectoral cooperation between Belarus and the EU, Belarus within the Eastern Partnership Programme; the implementation of international technical assistance projects by the EU in Belarus and discussed the situation in Eastern Europe. COEST also held talks with parliament speakers, the Economy, Finance, Justice, and Internal Affairs Ministries and the Central Election Commission. Previously, COEST delegation visited Minsk in 2015.
On July 9th, 2019, Deputy Foreign Minister Krauchanka met with a delegation of the US Department of Energy. According to the Foreign Ministry press-service, the parties discussed joint efforts and prospects of further cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and ensuring global nuclear security and exchanged views on other matters related to cooperation on the peaceful use of atomic energy. Interestingly, the US Embassy in Minsk highlighted that the parties “discussed cooperative efforts to expand the U.S.-Belarus bilateral relationship and continue our long-standing partnership on nuclear security”.
On July 9th-10th, 2019, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent visited Minsk for the second time this year. He met with Foreign Minister Makey. Further details of his visit to Minsk were not disclosed, however, apparently, the sides discussed the process of returning ambassadors and further normalization of relations.
Last week, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz also visited Minsk.
The Belarusian delegation also participated in a UN conference on Peacemaking for heads of the Army’s General Staff, held in New York City last week. Head of the Belarusian delegation, Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Armed Forces Ahle Belakoneu, held bilateral meetings with the heads of military delegations of the UK, Germany, and Serbia on July 10th to discuss peacekeeping cooperation, arms control, and language training.
Overall, despite the summer holiday season, Minsk not only retained the frequency of contacts with the West but gave it a boost. Further to the Belarusian authorities’ understandable desire to normalize relations with the West, the growing interest in Europe and the U.S. towards Belarus is shaping up.