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Opinions & Interviews

15 Nov 2018

Makei: Latvia is Belarus’ good neighbor, important partner

Makei: Latvia is Belarus’ good neighbor, important partner

MINSK, 15 November (BelTA) – Belarus and Latvia have common history and friendly bilateral relations, Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said at the opening ceremony of the exhibition “Latvia: 100. History, Art, Traditions” at the National Art Museum and the reception organized by the Latvian Embassy to mark the 100th anniversary of the Latvian Republic, BelTA has learned.

The Belarusian foreign minister said that since that time Latvia experienced ups and downs, but the good outweighed the bad. “Today Latvia is a truly respected European state with a strong economy and a decent place on the international arena. For Belarus, Latvia is first of all a good neighbor, a reliable and important partner,” Vladimir Makei emphasized.

In his words, Belarus and Latvia have much in common, but remain unique. The knowledge of history and culture, understanding of traditions, respect for the interests of each other serve as a good foundation for promoting truly good neighborly relations and mutually beneficial partnership.

The minister mentioned a little-know historical fact that speaks volumes about relations between Belarusians and Latvians. Being a fledging independent state in 1919, Latvia paid much attention to statehood processes in Belarus. At the Paris Peace Conference held in April 1919 to negotiate the post-war world order, a delegation of the Latvian Republic distributed a memorandum dedicated to Belarusians. The document read that Latvia’s goal was to maintain friendly relations “with this wonderful country” of Belarus.

“I think that a century that has passed since that time has fully confirmed that the attitude of our peoples to each other and the goals that we face have not changed. Destinies of people are an example of a living link of centuries,” Vladimir Makei said.

It is symbolic that the event in Minsk was attended by Guntis Ulmanis, the first president of Latvia after the country regained independence in the 1990s and the great-nephew of Karlis Ulmanis, the chairman of the Interim Government involved in establishing the Latvian Republic in November 1918.

The minister recalled that last year the countries celebrated the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between modern Belarus and Latvia. During this period, much has been achieved by joint efforts. The countries have successfully implemented many projects, exchanged visits and held meetings, signed agreements and clearly defined goals for the future.

Vladimir Makei stressed that the relations with Latvia have risen to a qualitatively new level. Bilateral cooperation in economy and trade has been gaining momentum. He noted, however, that the current level is not the limit and the parties have to work further. “A good basis has been laid. Our task is to continue to improve it,” the minister said.

The most important thing is that the countries have created the necessary conditions for interpersonal contacts, the minister believes. Residents of the frontier areas of Belarus and Latvia have had an opportunity to take advantage of the small traffic movement program since 2008. In addition, Belarus launched a 30-day visa-free entry for foreign nationals via Minsk National Airport, including citizens of Latvia. Vladimir Makei believes it important in the context of the forthcoming 2nd European Games due in Belarus in June 2019 and the IIHF World Championship that Minsk and Riga will co-host in 2021.

The independence of Latvia was proclaimed on 18 November 1918 at a meeting of the People's Council of leaders of the national movement.

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