Hungary urges EU to pursue dialogue with Belarus amid violent protests

Hungary has called on the European Union to pursue dialogue with Belarus and avoid burning bridges with the eastern European country.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto issued the call on Thursday, despite widespread clashes across Belarus following the disputed reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We are interested in EU decisions based on dialogue that do not make it impossible to build future relations between Belarus and the European Union, nor do they reject the Eastern Partnership program,” said Szijjarto on Facebook.

The Eastern Partnership program was launched in 2009 to bring Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine closer to the EU without a clear offer of future membership.

Hungary has previously remained silent on recent events in Belarus since Sunday’s disputed election result, which was overshadowed by serious allegations of fraud.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has maintained good relations with President Lukashenko and visited Minsk in June, where he called for an end to remaining EU sanctions.

At the same talks, Lukashenko called Hungary Belarus’s closest partner in the EU, and a country which “understands us more than any other”.

EU Presidents issue a “call to action”

At least two protesters have died and more than 6,700 people have been detained since clashes erupted on August 9 following electoral authorities’ announcement that Lukashenko had been re-elected for a sixth term in office with around 80 per cent of the vote.

EU foreign ministers have scheduled a video meeting on Friday to discuss the brutal crackdown.

EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell has suggested that the EU could impose sanctions against “those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results.”

But Peter Szijjarto did not confirm on Facebook whether Hungary recognised the election result claimed by Lukashenko or would support an increase in sanctions on Belarus.

“Yesterday we had a long meeting with my Latvian colleague Edgars Rinkēvičs,” said Szijjarto.

“It has become clear that our assessment of the situation is similar.”

On Thursday, the Presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland – Hungary’s closest ally in the EU – issued a “call to action” to the Belarusian President.

The EU countries called for a de-escalation, an end to the use of force, and the urgent “release all detained protesters”.

President Lukashenko was also urged to “initiate a dialogue with the Belarusian people”, with EU countries ready to offer mediation efforts for a peaceful resolution.

On Wednesday, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told Euronews that inaction from the EU “is not an option”.

Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Tomás Petricek also tweeted that he has summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Prague, dismissing allegations from Alexander Lukashenko that the Czech Republic was behind opposition protests in Belarus.

Punitive measures against Belarus must be supported unanimously by all 27 EU member states.

In 2016, the bloc lifted most sanctions it had imposed against Belarus after political prisoners were freed and protests allowed to take place.

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