Tbilisi ‘Watches Closely’ Belarus Elections
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 20 Dec.'10 / 15:17

It is still “early” to assess the presidential elections in Belarus as vote counting is still ongoing, but Tbilisi is “watching closely” developments there, Nino Kalandadze, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said on Monday morning.

“It is in our interests that Belarus holds fair and democratic elections,” she said, when asked at a news conference about the developments in Belarus.

“Holding of fair and democratic elections in Belarus is in our interests. We have good relations with the Belarusian state, as well as with the Belarusian people. We want to deepen these relations – both people-to-people relations and economic relations and we have many interesting plans in this regard and for that to happen it is very important to have a picture as a result of elections, which will be acceptable for the international civilized world,” Kalandadze said.

“We are interested in elections to be successfully there and that Belarusian people to exercise their sovereign right of choice,” she said.

According to the Belarus Central Election Commission President Alexander Lukashenko secured almost 80% of the vote in Sunday’s election.

Opposition alleges vote-rigging; thousands of protesters have tried to storm the government headquarters in Minsk, smashing windows and doors at the building; they were pushed back by riot police. At least four opposition presidential candidate were arrested, according to media reports.

The U.S. embassy in Minsk said in a statement that Washington “strongly condemns all election day violence” and is “especially concerned over excessive use of force by the authorities, including the beating and detention of several presidential candidates and violence against journalists and civil society activists.”

An observer mission from the Russia-led CIS said on Monday that presidential election in Belarus was legitimate, Reuters reported.

Georgia condemned Belarus previous presidential elections in 2006 as undemocratic and President Saakashvili said at the time that “dark forces” were trying to oppress freedom in Belarus.

Georgia and Belarus showed first sign of changing tone in their relationship towards more positive in September, 2007, when Georgian Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, visited Minks.

Georgia intensified efforts to build better relations with Minks after the August, 2008 war with Russia, as it tried to secure non-recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Belarus.

According to one classified diplomatic dispatch from series of leaked U.S. embassy cables, President Lukashenko complained in October, 2009, that he would be forced to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia in order to get cheaper Russian gas – no recognition from Minks followed.

According to the same cable, Lukashenko allegedly told visiting Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in October, 2009 that President Saakashvili invited him to visit Tbilisi, but had not yet accepted it since he did not want to annoy Moscow.

Instead, Lukashenko sent to Georgia Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus in January, 2010. During the meeting with the Deputy PM in Batumi, President Saakashvili praised Belarus leadership for “far-sighted and wise position in respect of our relations.”

Saakashvili met with Lukashenko in July, 2010 in Yalta, Ukraine and few days later the Belarus state TV aired an interview with Saakashvili, triggering angry reaction in Moscow.

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