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13 Jul 2017

Belarus sends invitations to foreign countries to monitor Zapad 2017

MINSK, 13 July (BelTA) - All the necessary information regarding the forthcoming Belarusian-Russian military exercise Zapad 2017 will be sent to the OSCE member states, in conformity with the international obligations. Belarus is also sending, in a proactive manner, the invitations to foreign countries and international organizations to monitor the exercises, spokesperson for the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Mironchik told a press briefing on 13 July, BelTA has learned.

“The joint strategic exercise of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia, which will take place in September 2017, is a planned event. Such exercises are held every two years. At the end of 2016 we officially notified all OSCE member states about the upcoming military exercise, in line with our commitments under the 2011 Vienna document on confidence-and security-building measures. At least 42 days before the start of the exercise, we will present all the necessary information about Zapad 2017, as provided for in the Vienna document,” Dmitry Mironchik said.

He stressed that the Belarusian head of state, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Ministry have clearly stated that the upcoming drill bears no threat to anyone.

Dmitry Mironchik noted that on the eve of the OSCE forum for security cooperation in Vienna, the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus held a detailed briefing on the exercise. The OSCE participating states were provided with detailed information, officially and at a high-level, on the concept and script of the exercise, its main purposes and tasks, locations, and means that will be used.

“In the OSCE, we again emphasized that the exercise Zapad 2017 is purely defensive and is aimed solely at strengthening the military security of the Union State,” the spokesman said.

The total number of troops participating in Zapad 2017 will not exceed the threshold for prior notification and observation of military exercises and unusual activities. “In other words, the OSCE participating states, including Belarus, are not obligated to invite observers to monitor exercises involving less than 13,000 troops. At the same time, guided by the principle of transparency and in a spirit of goodwill, we are voluntarily sending invitations to monitor the active phase of the exercise to the international organizations (UN, OSCE, NATO, CIS, CSTO, the International Committee of the Red Cross). We will invite military attaches of foreign countries accredited to the embassies in Belarus,” Dmitry Mironchik said.

According to the spokesman, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Sweden and Norway will be also invited to send military observers.

Therefore, the concerns and fears of some countries and politicians are absolutely artificial and are more typical of the Cold War period rather than the current situation. “It is time to stop looking for a black cat in a dark room. It is not there/There is no cat,” Dmitry Mironchik noted.

When asked whether the process of extending invitations has started, he said: “As far as I know, the Defense Ministry will send invitations literally today.”

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