RIGA - Imposing EU sanctions on Belarus would leave this country completely under Russia's influence, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) told journalists today.
Speaking at a news conference following a meeting with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Rinkevics indicated that the ministers are unanimous that they are interested in Belarus being an independent and sovereign country, developing according to the will of its people.
"Secondly, we realize that the situation is complicated, and we need to keep communication channels both with the government and opposition open and do everything to ensure certain political dialogue. If we keep all options open, including sanctions - both personal and economic - in the European Union's toolbox, they can be applied if the situation deteriorates and certain red lines are crossed," Rinkevics said.
The Latvian minister believes however that it is still time for diplomacy and political dialogue, but he does not rule out more serious decisions if the situation changes for the worse.
Rinkevics warned that if the EU decides to impose sanctions, Belarus can end up completely under Russia's influence. "Because - what does it mean to apply sanctions? Without any doubt, it means that Belarus will be pulled completely in Russia's sphere of influence," the minister said.
As reported, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Finland and Latvia support Poland's call to convene a meeting of the European Foreign Affairs Council in connection with the situation in Belarus, where protests and a brutal crackdown against them have erupted.
"We all fully support the proposal of our Polish colleague to convene an extraordinary EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting to discuss and develop a common, united position on Belarus. We also fully support Belarus' efforts to become a European nation," the minister commented, while stressing that Europe should help Belarus normalize the situation in the country after the presidential elections.
Reinsalu, for his part, said that the Belarusian government absolutely needs to stop all violence against peaceful protesters, release political prisoners and journalists, and accept that the use of force and tear-gas is unacceptable. The Estonian foreign minister acknowledged that the presidential elections in Belarus cannot considered free and democratic.
Meanwhile, the head of the Polish foreign service said that what is happening in Belarus in important in the context of international politics, and that the situation remains very serious, which is why the EU must become involved to improve the situation.