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Georgia Welcomes Release of Belarus Opposition Figures
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Apr.'12 / 19:12

Georgian Foreign Ministry has welcomed a decision by Minsk to release two jailed opposition figures and expressed hope the move would help in “normalization” of EU-Belarus relations.

In a statement on April 17 the Georgian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the release of two “opposition leaders… will facilitate the renewal of direct dialogue between Belarus and the EU and the country's full-fledged participation in the Eastern Partnership initiative, as well as normalization and further development of Belarus-EU relations, which, on its part, will promote strengthening of democracy in the country.”

Authorities in Belarus released Andrei Sannikov, who ran against President Alexander Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential election, and his campaign aide Dmitry Bondarenko on April 15.

The European Union welcomed the early release of Sannikov and Bondarenko, but called on Minsk “to release unconditionally now also all other remaining political prisoners.” The U.S. Department of State has also called on Belarus “to immediately and unconditionally free all remaining political prisoners.”

The release came after the EU stepped up pressure on Belarus in late March by adding another 12 persons and 29 companies to a blacklist of around 200 who are already banned from travelling or accessing assets in the EU.

After these sanctions were announced, the Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement expressing “concern” about further worsening of tensions between the EU and Belarus.

In September, 2011 when Warsaw hosted the Eastern Partnership summit, snubbed by Minsk, President Saakashvili said that without Belarus EU’s initiative for six former-Soviet states “will not be a full-fledged partnership.”

Saakashvili said on the sideline of the Eastern Partnership’s summit in Warsaw in September, that it was “very bad” that the Belarus representatives were absent and called on the EU not to let Russia to seize an initiative in respect of Belarus. “It is very important for the EU not to lose control over this process and not to [allow] another great neighbor [referring to Russia] to seize this process,” Saakashvili said.

After meeting with his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski, in Batumi in July, 2011, President Saakashvili called on Europe not to turn its back on Belarus, saying that isolating this “very European nation” will pave the way for the Kremlin to gain “complete control” over Minsk.

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