BRUSSELS - When tightening sanctions against Minsk, the EU has to be more open to ordinary Belarusians, said Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Azubalis (pictured) at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on Jan. 23, MFA press service reports.
The head of Lithuanian diplomacy proposed to start considering the development of European alternative for Belarus. “The people of Belarus must clearly see that Europe has not forgotten them,” Azubalis said.
He also reminded that last year the Government of Lithuania decided to issue national visas for citizens of Belarus free of charge and the European Commission offered Belarus to open negotiations for visa facilitation and readmission agreements. So far, the authorities of Belarus have not responded to it.
Foreign ministers specified criteria for sanctions against some Belarusian officials and complemented the list of individuals subject to targeted restrictive measures.
As Iran does not answer questions about the nature of its nuclear program and tensions rise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the ministers tightened sanctions against Iran’s oil, financial, transport and energy sectors, and agreed on other measures. They achieved a compromise on the date of entry into force of the sanctions, aiming to help those member states that could face difficulties due to the oil embargo.
Azubalis said that the sanctions can be an effective way to signal to the Iranian regime the unity of the European Union, at the same time supporting the efforts of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to continue talks with Iran and to organize a new round of negotiations in Istanbul.
Responding to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria, the ministers discussed the situation in this African country and the EU policy regarding freedom of religion or belief. Azubalis agreed that the EU should support the Government of Nigeria and urge it to take every possible measure to ensure the safety of members of religious communities.
The minister underlined that freedom of religion or belief beyond the EU external borders had to remain an important and integral part of the EU human rights policy.