The Foreign Ministry of Belarus increased its activity in the West
Last week, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a number of public events in Belarus and the EU, namely, in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Serbia and Latvia.
Minsk is actively attempting to resume dialogue with the West. The character of Belarusian statements and suggestions is becoming more constructive; however, nothing is said about the fulfillment of two major conditions: the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners.
The rise in diplomatic activity in the West is most likely explained by the fact that IMF mission started work in Belarus on October, 18. Belarus is highly interested in resuming cooperation with the Fund (at least on the issue of debt restructuring), which is a ground for diplomatic activities, although mostly of economic character.
Therefore, it is predictable that activities of officials from the Foreign Ministry are limited to economic cooperation. In the period from October 15-19, a representative from Belarus, Mr. Voronetsky, took part in a conference of member states of United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. He also participated in the annual meeting to review the fulfillment of economic and environmental commitments of the OSCE member states in Vienna on 16-17 October. On October 18 – 20, 2012 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Elena Kupchina, went on a working trip to Germany. On October 17, a Belarusian Economy Day was held in the German city of Friedrichshafen. On October 18, in the Dutch city of Tilburg the ambassador of Belarus, Mrs. Elena Gritsenko, had a meeting with law students of Tilburg University. Finally, on October 15-19, the Latvian town of Jelgava played host to a Week of Belarusian culture.
These events should be viewed as domestic activities of the Belarusian Interior Ministry. In particular, on October 15, Press Secretary of the MFA demonstrated a mild reaction to the decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council to extend sanctions against Belarusian authorities and business. He summoned the EU “to abandon its sanctions-based mentality and make an effort, in turn, to restore the atmosphere of mutual trust”.
On October 19 in Minsk, Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Guryanov, and Director of the National Agency of Investment and Privatization, Dmitry Klevzhits, had a meeting with directors and representatives of trade and commercial departments of twenty foreign embassies accredited in Belarus. However, as anticipated, officials from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry ignored political questions, which is the main claim of the EU and USA against official Minsk. Thus, at a press conference on October 19, MFA Press Secretary Andrei Savinykh reproached the West for having a policy of double standards in regard to Belarus and insisted that Belarus should have the right to transition to democracy gradually and independently. In other words, this implies that President Lukashenko is still not ready to make the main concession, namely to release (and rehabilitate) political prisoners.
It should be expected that Belarusian diplomatic service will continue its activity to establish economic relations with the West. Meanwhile, the solution of the main political issue is under the authority of Presidential Administration and Alexander Lukashenko personally.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.