VILNIUS – Every conversation between EU leaders and Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko legitimizes him as president, Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, said on Thursday, adding that she expects the bloc to remain united on sanctions against the Minsk regime.
"Every conversation between EU leaders and Lukashenko is a legitimization, so we have to understand that the aim of the opposing side is to break our unity, and our aim is to keep the EU's united stance on sanctions and to stick to it, and I hope that unity will be maintained," she told reporters.
Cmilyte-Nielsen also urged caution about the "technical talks" that the European Commission is planning to hold with Belarus to allow the return of migrants to their countries of origin.
"Every such step, which seems to be a step towards the Belarusian dictator, legitimizes him, and we should be cautious about such steps," she said.
EU officials say the talks will be limited to discussions with Belarusian and UN agencies on how best to return migrants stranded at the EU's border to their countries of origin.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed on steps to sanction individuals and companies involved in the smuggling of migrants.
However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told the public broadcaster LRT on Wednesday that attempts were being made to remove Belarus' national airline Belavia from the sanction list.
The minister said he did not know exactly which country had made the proposal, but he did not rule out that it might be Germany.
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone to Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko for the second time this week. It was his first call with a Western leader since last year's presidential election which was not recognized by the West.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told the BBC on Tuesday that speaking with Lukashenko could be a way of solving the illegal migration crisis on Belarus' borders with Poland and Lithuania.
However, Landsbergis and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte believe that this may lead Lukashenko to consider himself a leader recognized by the West.