Foreign Minister Gabriel travelled to the Belarusian capital Minsk on Friday (17 November). There, he held talks with President Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. This was the first visit by a German Foreign Minister to Belarus in seven years.
Speaking in Minsk, Gabriel declared: “We want to support the tentative steps towards closer ties between Belarus and the EU.” In recent years, the Belarusian Government has shown increasing willingness to hold talks with the EU, among other things by entering into a human rights dialogue with the European Union. President Lukashenko may also attend the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on 24 November.
Gabriel calls for progress in the area of human rights
In Minsk, Gabriel emphasised that progress in the area of democracy and human rights was necessary for closer ties with the EU to be established. Belarus is the only country on the European continent that still imposes the death penalty. Together with the European Union, Germany is calling for a moratorium on capital punishment at least, and is appealing to Belarus to place a stronger focus on civil rights and the rule of law.
Host for negotiations on Ukraine
The country has a key role to play in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Gabriel highlighted the responsibility that the country had assumed in hosting the meetings of the OSCE’s Trilateral Contact Group. The Foreign Minister stressed that Belarus could be an important bridge for Europe.Gabriel and his Belarusian counterpart Makei participated in the Minsk Forum on Friday. The conference, which focuses on the relationship between Belarus and its neighbours, Germany and the EU, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.