VILNIUS - Minsk is starting to speak more constructively about the safety of the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Wednesday on his return from Belarus.
Linkevicius said he welcomed Belarus' decision to let in the European Commission's experts.
"More constructively, you could feel that there is less rejection when it comes to safety issues, because they used to say that there were no problems at all and that they were not going to do anything at all," the minister told reporters in Vilnius.
"I think it's good that we agreed that they will receive experts from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and international experts, and they will jointly look at the recommendations, and that the most important ones will have to be implemented before the plant is launched," he said.
Linkevicius spoke to reporters after a special meeting of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs that was held at the initiative of the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.
The conservatives have criticized Linkevicius for visiting Belarus, saying the reopening of dialog with Minsk could mean inappropriate concessions on the Astravyets plant.
Opposition MPs wanted to hear the minister’s explanations before his trip to Belarus, but such a meeting could not be arranged.
Conservative MP Zygimantas Pavilionis told reporters before Wednesday’s meeting that he wanted Linkevicius to explain why he had changed his stance on relations with Belarus.
"We want to hear answers, which we failed to receive before his visit, on what basis his own position has changed, because he maintained previously that dialog with the regime was not effective," he said.
Linkevicius, for his part, says that meetings with Belarus' officials do not automatically mean a warming of relations.
"I think we had very constructive talks, and when I am asked if there is a warming of relations, I answer that a warming occurs when there some common approach," the minister said.
"There are differences in positions on many issues, but what is good is that we are not skirting these contentious issues. I did raise these issues in talks both with the prime minister and with my colleague," he said.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Tuesday that Minsk would receive exports from international organizations in the near future and would listen to Lithuania's doubts about the Astravyets plant's safety.
His statement came after Lithuania's top diplomat called on the neighboring country to follow international experts' recommendations on the plant's safety, including stress test recommendations.
The stress tests were carried out by Atomproekt, a subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom, the Astravyets project's main contractor, in 2016 and were later reviewed by an international panel of experts set up by the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG).
The ENSREG peer review report, released in July 2018, revealed a number of drawbacks, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry then said.