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8 Feb 2018

Makei on Belarus-Russia border issues: It is important to trust each other

MINSK, 8 February (BelTA) - The joint Belarusian-Russian border is the common heritage and responsibility, Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said in an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, BelTA has learned.

“It is important to trust each other. Therefore we respond clearly to the unilateral unmotivated steps that are explained afterwards by ‘the threat of the Belarusian visa-free policy’. After all, we did not create a scandal, say, over the fact that in 2016 alone there were about 760,000 trips between Russia and China as part of the group visa-free tourist exchange. All the tourists returned home on time, did not they? No one made their way to Brest, did they?”

Vladimir Makei stressed that the principle of openness of borders and a number of other important arrangements in this area have been formalized in the international treaties between Russia and Belarus. We voiced our concerns over the non-compliance with these obligations and over the risks of infringement of the rights of Belarusian citizens. Our concerns were heard. On 1 January 2018 the Russian side made changes to the border regime rules. Belarusian citizens do not need to obtain permits or produce any documents to enter and stay in the frontier regions adjacent to the Belarusian-Russian border. As before, they are expected to have passports on them,” Vladimir Makei said.

He noted that there are other issues which Belarus will monitor and, if such need arises, will bring them up to the attention of the Russian counterparts.

“With regard to the nationals of third countries, Belarus and Russia maintain an active dialogue on the draft agreement on the mutual recognition of visas and other issues related to the entry of foreign citizens to the territory of the states members of the Union State. The agreement, inter alia, shall settle the issues regarding the crossing of the Belarusian-Russian border by third-country nationals. We are planning to sign this bilateral intergovernmental document in the near future,” the Belarusian minister said.

The minister assured that Belarus, the same as Russia, pays its utmost attention to security. He expressed confidence that the current border controls at the external border of the Union State are optimal and sufficient. Further dialogue on the topic should be based on mutual trust.

Vladimir Makei agreed that the joint border with Russia has recently been the subject of constant discussions at various levels, especially in the context of the control measures introduced by Russia towards third-country nationals.

In this connection, the minister dismissed the statements on the need to strengthen border controls in connection with Belarus' five-day visa-free program as groundless. Some claim that this visa-free policy has created the conditions for the penetration of various hostile elements not only to Belarus but also to Russia. “This is not true,” the minister said.

Vladimir Makei cited a number of arguments to support his statement. Firstly, Russia introduced controls on the joint border in early 2016, a year before Belarus issued Decree No. 8 on the launch of visa-free entry and exit procedures for foreign citizens.

“Some twenty years ago, in 1996, Belarus and Russia officially dismantled the border posts. Those past twenty years have not seen a single case of a terrorist threat coming to Russia through Belarus. We had this border regime in the turbulent 1990s, and also during a later period of conflicts in various regions of the world. That shows that Belarus’ critics have flaws in the chronology and reasoning while bringing up their accusations against Belarus," the minister said.

“We protect our border, our outer perimeter as a shared frontier of the Union State. We operate a single ban list together with Russia. If there is a terrorist threat, it will not get through to your country through Belarus whether we have visa requirements or not,” the minister said.

 

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