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EuropeEU: Belarus Bid to Reduce Poland, Lithuania Diplomatic Staff ‘Regrettable’

EU: Belarus Bid to Reduce Poland, Lithuania Diplomatic Staff ‘Regrettable’

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BRUSSELS The European Union said on Sunday that Belarus demand for Lithuania and Poland to reduce their embassy staff numbers in Minsk was unfounded and regrettable.The EUs foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized the move in a statement.

It goes against the logic of dialogue and will only further isolate the authorities in Minsk.

Attempts by the Belarusian authorities to target certain EU Member States will not succeed in weakening EU unity, Borrell said.

He added that it was clearly reaffirmed by the European Council on Oct. 1 when all EU Member States called on the Belarusian authorities to end violence and repression, release all detainees and political prisoners, respect media freedom and civil society, and start an inclusive national dialogue.

During the meeting, EU heads of state and government agreed to impose sanctions on Belarusian officials for their involvement in the violent repression of peaceful protests against Alexander Lukanshenko.

The long-serving president, in power since 1994, was left off the sanction list.

The EU does not consider Lukashenkos presidential election victory back in August to be legitimate.

According to Belarus electoral committee, the hardline ruler took 80 percent of the national vote.

Belarus opposition which has swelled with popular support in recent months, and the EU, believe the elections were rigged.

The EU continues to support the democratic right of the Belarusian people to elect their President through new free and fair elections, without external interference, Borrell said.

The Belarusian government has held consultations with its ambassadors in Poland and Lithuania, both of which border Belarus, over the two nations alleged destructive role in Minsks political crisis.

Foreign minister spokesman Anatoli Glaz told the official BELTA news agency that the ambassadors would return to Minsk on Monday.

The government has also asked Poland and Lithuania to reduce their diplomatic corps in the country.

Lithuania would have to reduce its diplomatic staff from 25 to 14 and Poland from 50 to 18, the spokesman said.

Poland and Lithuania have expressed their support for Belarus opposition politicians following the controversial Aug. 9 presidential elections.

Belarus most prominent opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is currently self-exiled to Lithuania, from where she coordinates the opposition council.

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