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Opinions & Interviews

18 Feb 2018

Belarus’ MFA on the Munich Security Conference

Belarus’ MFA on the Munich Security Conference

MINSK, 18 February (BelTA) – Belarus’ partners are moving away from understanding the situation in and around the country in black and white colors, Belarus’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said in an interview with the STV channel while commenting on the participation in the 54th Munich Security Conference. A transcript of the interview was published in the Belarusian ministry's Facebook account, BelTA has learned.

“The attitude towards Belarus is changing, because, thank God, our partners are moving away from understanding the situation in and around Belarus in black-and-white,” the minister said.

He noted that the country has made a very large contribution to stability and security in Europe. “We intend to continue to do so. Yes, there are some things that we do not agree on. They would like us to slightly improve the situation in certain areas. But it is a matter of normal negotiations, discussions. We are ready for such an open, frank dialogue,” Vladimir Makei said.

According to him, at this stage, there is a greater understanding on the part of all foreign partners regarding what Belarus is, what is happening in the country and how we need to move forward. “But again, there remain a number of issues to which we should pay attention, and we talk about them with our partners in an open, frank dialogue,” Vladimir Makei said.

On deployment of peacekeepers in the south-east of Ukraine

The minister recalled that the Belarusian president suggested deploying Belarusian peacekeepers back in October 2014. “Unfortunately, back then the initiative remained unanswered. It was not acceptable to all parties for various reasons. After some time this idea was back on the table, but the time was lost unfortunately. Today, to implement this initiative is much more difficult than it was back then,” Vladimir Makei believes.

He noted that in September last year, the Russian president proposed to deploy the UN peacekeepers on the line of contact. The Ukrainian side made its proposals on how it sees the idea of peacekeepers in the region. “We see that there are big differences in the positions of the parties. The challenge is therefore to reconcile these positions and find, perhaps some sort of compromise. We talked about this with the representative of the United States,” the head of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

With regard to the position of Belarus, he confirmed the readiness to participate in any projects, proposals and ideas that will help reduce tensions in the region and settle this crisis once and for all. “We can only confirm our readiness to participate in any way in the possible deployment of a peacekeeping force in the region if all parties agree on this issue, and if it would be acceptable to all the parties involved in the conflict,” Vladimir Makei said.

On the possibility of Helsinki 2

According to the minister, the report which was prepared on the eve of the Munich conference said that the level of tension and confrontation in the region has not diminished. “Being located on this geopolitical fault line between East and West, being situated, as I say sometimes, between a rock and a hard place, with the current sanctions between Russia and the European Union, Belarus feels the impact all probably like no other. Because we are suffering economically, politically and in other areas. To contribute to the reduction of tension and confrontation has become an overriding goal and task for us,” he said.

That was the reason why the Belarusian head of state suggested initiating the debate on this issue. “This does not mean that we are going to cancel the Helsinki 1 and start from scratch to create any new building, the new Helsinki treaty. Far from it. All that has been achieved before should remain in place. But taking into account a huge number of new challenges, the growing tensions, the new arms race we must sit down at the negotiating table to discuss the situation, define ‘the red lines’, as the diplomats say, that cannot be crossed,” Vladimir Makei said.

“Maybe it will not be Helsinki 2 but it is important to start a discussion that would allow us to come to a greater understanding, to the understanding that we are lacking today. This is evidenced by the content of the discussions during the current Munich conference,” Vladimir Makei said.

On security

One of the questions was about the 2019 European Games in Minsk and the possible assistance from the partners, including from Western countries in terms of ensuring security. “Security issues, especially during major sporting events, are very important, and I think that here we can count on the support of all our partners, both European partners and more distant, maybe overseas partners,” the minister said.

He said that during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2014 in Minsk Belarus cooperated with NATO and with the United States on these issues. “Therefore I am convinced that, if necessary, we will find understanding on the matters related to the security during such major sporting events,” Vladimir Makei said.  

On the Munich conference

“I cannot say that we will bring away from the conference a bag of benefits that can be evaluated in certain material and financial context. However, the participation in such activities is, in my view, very important. Because, firstly, you learn a lot about the positions of other states, the position of the leaders of other states on the most exciting topical issues. Secondly, the conference provides a unique opportunity to communicate your point of view to a huge number of people from different countries from all over the world. It is very important,” Vladimir Makei said.

According to him, this conference provides a possibility of bilateral meetings to discuss certain issues and solve some specific problems.

When you are in the hall, when you take part in discussions, you get a better understanding of how Europe wants to develop, where we are going, what Europe fears and so on,” the minister said.

Vladimir Makei stated that the conference paid less attention to the issues which are of utmost importance for the humanity today. Among them is the fight against terrorism. “The matter was just mentioned. These are also issues related to illegal migration, climate change and so on. It seems to me that for some reason the participants, especially those from European countries, were most concerned about the security relations between the European Union and NATO, what NATO should protect, and what the European Union should protect. I mean the defense sector. Most of the discussions were dedicated to these issues,” the minister said.

The minister stated that unfortunately the countries had not yet managed to abandon the logic of confrontational thinking. “It seemed surprising that one of the high-level participants of the conference, speaking about NATO’s decision to oblige all the countries to increase military spending, cited Leon Trotsky's statement about the war. Is this the right thing to do in the current situation? We must first think about the ways to avoid this dangerous prospect of a new spiral in the armament race. Yet, we use some old-fashioned categories and notions. We cannot do this,” Vladimir Makei said.

On meetings on the sidelines of the conference

Speaking about the results of the meeting with Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger, Vladimir Makei said that the talks focused on the possible mutual events. “Mr. Ischinger and his secretariat suggested holding a meeting of the so-called main group of the Munich Security Conference in Belarus in late October 2018. This is a meeting of prominent leaders, politicians, and public figures, about 70-80 people. They gather to discuss the most urgent problems of the present day. Why Belarus? As I understand it, Belarus is a place where people from different conflicting parties can meet today. I am convinced that this meeting, if it takes place in Belarus, will also make its contribution to the reduction of tension and confrontation in the region today,” he said.

Vladimir Makei held a number of other bilateral meetings, including with the new representatives of the German Chancellery, who will be responsible for the foreign policy. The parties found an absolutely unanimous understanding and agreed to continue constructive dialogue.

“We held a number of bilateral meetings with foreign ministers, including those of Egypt and Sudan to analyze the progress made in the implementation of the agreements reached during the visit of our president to these countries. We also agreed on new contacts at various levels, including the highest level, in the near future. We are looking forward to the visits of the leaders of these states,” the minister said.

The Belarusian minister also held a meeting with representatives of several German companies that are showing interest in cooperation with Belarus, and representatives of the European Union, who are engaged in the implementation of the good neighborliness policy.

“Of course, we could not ignore the problem that concerns all of us today, the issues related to the situation in Ukraine. We met with the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Mr. Volker and exchanged the views on the situation in Ukraine and expressed our views on what steps can be taken to reduce tensions in the region,” the minister added.


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