Minsk and Jerusalem will reduce level of interstate contacts
In 2016, Belarus and Israel will close their embassies in these countries. According to the Foreign Ministry, Belarus will close its embassy in Israel due to economic reasons and budget constraints. In 2003, Jerusalem closed the embassy in Minsk because of the cost savings, but reopened two years later. Meanwhile, foreign policy analysts believe that the closure of the embassies could be due to political reasons – domestic clashes between various parties in Israel, as well as Belarus lacking the independence in foreign policy and her dependence on the Kremlin. It is worth noting that Belarus has friendly or benevolent relations with some Middle East countries, which are not in the neighbourly relations, and often confront one another, such as Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. When embassies close, relations between Minsk and Israel are likely to chill, as they will lose high-level political contacts and an important communication channel.
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.