Belarusian Foreign Ministry requests Kremlin’s support at international fora
On July 10th, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey paid a working visit to Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry is trying to enlist the Kremlin’s support at the most important international fora - the United Nations and the OSCE - to influence Russia’s official positions vis-à-vis Belarus. However, the Kremlin is not interested in undertaking efforts to assist Belarus and the status quo will be maintained.
Despite regular meetings between the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and its EU counterparts, there have been no qualitative changes in relations between Minsk and Washington/Brussels. As previously noted, since late 2012, high-ranking Belarusian diplomats have dramatically increased their level of cooperation and continue with regular bilateral and multilateral meetings.
On July 11th, Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Elena Kupchina, met with EU representative in Belarus, Maira Mora. Earlier Kupchina and Mora met in February and March 2013. Bilateral meetings were also held regularly in Europe and the U.S.: e.g., Belarusian-Irish Ministerial Consultations in Dublin on July 9th (led by Kupchina), Belarusian-American consultations on June 24th, with U.S. State Department (led by Chief Directorate for Multilateral Diplomatic Relations head Yuri Ambrazevich) and others.
However, such an active meetings schedule has not yet resulted in any political changes in the negotiation process: so far, Belarus has failed to implement bilateral and multilateral conditions for resuming dialogue, while the West holds onto its position and insists on the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners. These conditions vis-à-vis Belarus have been reiterated at two important international cooperation fora: the UN Human Rights Council and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that during his visit to Moscow, Minister Makey discussed with his counterpart Lavrov how ‘to coordinate positions within major international organizations: the UN and the OSCE’, and during the final press conference he emphasized the need to lift Western sanctions against Belarus. In late June, Makey published an article “Human Rights: who made them a barrier for international cooperation?’ in the English edition of the Russian magazine Russia in Global Affairs. The article is a critical review of the human rights idea in a historical and philosophical context, based on publications by Western authors. It concluded with a call to recognize other cultures’ importance and value their uniqueness.
Belarus is interested in Russia’s support in this value-political sphere. Such support is particularly relevant in view of the fact that in mid-June, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus in the UN human Rights Council Miklos Haraszti was extended for one year. Haraszti wrote a harsh report on the human rights situation in Belarus. In addition, in early July, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted another resolution on Belarus calling for the immediate release and rehabilitation of the political prisoners.
It should be noted that Moscow has always publicly supported Belarus at these international fora and advocated for conflict-free relations between Minsk and the West. In fact, Belarus’ international political deadlock with the West is objectively playing into the Russia’s hands. Therefore, the Kremlin’s support for Belarus in foreign policy should not be anticipated.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.