Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko, said Minsk was ready to recognize Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but did not do so because Moscow refused “to share” negative consequences, expected for Belarus from the West in case of such decision.
“Taking into consideration our relations – between Belarus and Russia – of course we should have recognized [South] Ossetia and Abkhazia; no matter what it [Russia] is our ally,” Lukashenko said at a news conference held for the Russian journalists on October 2.
“From this point of view, we should have done that. Frankly speaking, we were ready to do that,” he was quoted by the Belarus and Russian media sources.
“I was meeting with one western politician and he told me: ‘Do you really want to recognize Ossetia and Abkhazia?’ I responded: ‘And why does it make you so uneasy? We are allies [with Russia]’ and then he laid out those relations, which we would have had with Europe and the United States [in case of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]… You should know that we have slightly more trade [turnover] with the European Union, than with Russia; it’s billions of dollars. When Russia pushed us out from market, Europe did not dare to do that... So with the long list of possible disasters, which could have embraced Belarus, I met with your President [Dmitry Medvedev] in Sochi and we discussed this problem, during which he was citing my solemn pledge [to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia]. I am not rejecting [making such pledge]. But I told him: ‘There will be consequences [for Belarus from the West in case of recognition]; are you ready Mr. President, dear friend, to share these consequences together with us? Are you ready to put your shoulder?’ I quote [Medvedev’s response]: ‘Let’s stop this horse-trading. This is one issue and that’s another’. So I told him: ‘Thanks, the issue is now closed, there is no continuation to this conversation’,” Lukashenko said.
It was reported in February, 2009, that then EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had warned the Belarus President against recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On August 3, 2010, Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, said that at one of the summits of CIS leaders, following the August, 2008 war with Georgia, Lukashenko promised in presence of other leaders of CIS to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
At the news conference on October 2, Lukashenko said that he was the only President present at the meeting, who “supported Russia”. “Let him [Medvedev] publish transcript of my speech and those of others as well. You should have looked at that expression on his face,” Lukashenko said.
“Maybe Russia does not want us at all to recognize Ossetia and Abkhazia? Maybe [Russia uses the issue] just as a pretext to bow us down?” he said.
In his remarks Lukashenko also mentioned President Saakashvili’s interview, which was aired by the Belarus state television in July, 2010 and which was described in Russia as “an unfriendly step” of Minsk towards Moscow.
Lukashenko said that he had an impression from that interview that the Georgian leader was sending a message to the Russian leadership about the need to build relations. “That’s the first time I see this kind of Saakashvili,” Lukashenko said. “He gave 7-minute long interview; so what?”