German foreign minister envisions easing Belarus sanctions

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Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten

October 16, 2015

October 18, 2015

Translated from German by Tom Winter

Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has brought an easing of sanctions against Belarus into play. Since the country is an important political ally of Russia, an easing of sanctions against Belarus could also entail changes in relation to Putin. 

Following the election victory of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has brought into view the easing of EU sanctions against the close ally of Russia. On Monday, just before the start of the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Steinmeier said he will consult with his EU counterparts about the conditions and time limits for modifying or loosening the sanctions.

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Prerequisite for the discussion will be the report on the election by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The vote in favor of Lukashenko was not surprising, even at its high level, but the conditions of the election changed, with releases of political prisoners and apparently less repressive goings-on compared to previous elections, Steinmeier said.

According to EU diplomats, the account lockouts and entry bans for the next four months could be lifted in October. 

Lukashenko was re-elected to his fifth term on Sunday with more than 80 percent of the vote, according to the official figures. Steinmeier’s remarks are timely, coming just before the Day of the Belarusian Economy in Berlin on 22 October, in which the German Industry and Commerce Day is also involved..

There have been restrictive measures since 18 May 2006. These include financial penalties and travel restrictions against Lukashenko and other officials, based on the violation of international electoral standards in the presidential elections. In summer 2011, the sanctions were widened to include, inter alia, an arms embargo as well as “prohibitions with regard to goods for internal repression,” said the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control.

The close relations between Belarus and Russia play a significant role in the possible easing of sanctions. In the EU in recent days and also at the political level there have been demands to reach out to Russia and Putin, especially since the German economy in particular is suffering under the sanctions.

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