Visa-free regime will not improve political contacts between Minsk and Jerusalem
Last week, Deputy Minister for Sport and Tourism Mikhali Portnov officially confirmed the introduction of the visa-free regime with Israel. Negotiations between Minsk and Jerusalem on the introduction of the visa-free regime were ongoing over the past few years, and the starting date had been postponed by Israel several times. The current level of political contacts between the Belarusian and Israeli leaders and prospects for their development are quite low. The Israeli government has once again taken a preliminary decision to close its diplomatic mission to Minsk for economic reasons. In addition, speaking of Minsk’s interests in the Middle East, high-level contacts with the Arab countries seem to be more appealing to the Belarusian authorities, than with Israel.
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.