Minsk is becoming more appealing to the West as a regional security facilitator
Last week, the West demonstrated that it recognised Belarus’ efforts in strengthening international security and was ready to continue to use Minsk as a platform for negotiations, including expert discussions on conflict resolution.
The major event last week was the international security forum organized by Minsk Dialogue, a civil expert initiative, which brought together about 500 researchers and practitioners from around the world. President Lukashenka participated in the conference, raising its status, and talked about developing new approaches in international relations. OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger supported this idea in his speech and said that Belarus was becoming a regional diplomacy hub.
NATO was represented at the forum by Deputy Assistant Secretary-General James Appathurai, which was a high representation given the level of Belarusian-NATO relations. Appathurai said that Belarus supported a constructive approach and sought to ensure full transparency of military exercises. In addition, he said that NATO-Belarus relations were good. Apart from speaking at the forum, the NATO representative held talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Kravchenko and with the Head of the Department for International Military Cooperation of the Defence Ministry, Voinov.
A delegation of ambassadors for special missions of the EU member states on Eastern Partnership affairs visited Minsk before the Forum. They held meetings in the Foreign Ministry, in the parliament, with the opposition and the expert community. During the meeting at the Belarusian parliament, Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Boleslav Pirshtuk stated that the expansion of relations with the European Union in all directions was a strategic goal of the Belarusian parliament.
That said, trade turnover between Belarus and the EU in January-March 2018 increased by 50% as compared with January – March 2017.
Belarus’ relations with the West are likely to continue to improve; the interest of some states and international organisations in Belarus and her initiative has increased; the dialogue has become more intense and multi-dimensional. Belarusian officials, in turn, also expressed interest in the normalization of relations. That said, there was still no a significant breakthrough in Belarus’ relations with the West. This process appears to require more time and efforts than anticipated by Minsk.