OSCE envoy forced to leave Belarus

  • 2002-04-18
  • Agence France-Presse

The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission in Belarus has been forced to leave the country just days after the pan-European security body warned Minsk not to eject him, OSCE officials said April 16.

Interim OSCE mission head Michel Rivollier left after his visa and diplomatic license expired, the officials added.

Authorities failed to renew Rivollier's accreditation although the OSCE's acting president, Antonio Martins da Cruz, warned Friday that the organization would take "appropriate measures" if the former Soviet republic decided not to extend the French diplomat's status.

The Belarus Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the diplomat's departure.

However, Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvostov threatened last month to expel the OSCE monitoring group in Minsk, accusing it of being preoccupied with political activities and of not respecting the terms of its presence here.

Minsk and the OSCE remain at loggerheads over the security body's refusal to recognize the Belarus Parliament elected in October 2000 elections it says were marred by widespread fraud.

Last year Belarus's authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka won a new term of office with an official tally of 75.5 percent, though the European Union said the vote was marred by harassment of the opposition and a failure to respect democratic procedures.

The OSCE's former mission chief, German diplomat Hans-Georg Wieck, left Minsk in December at the end of a term marred by repeated run-ins with Lukashenko.

The organization appointed German diplomat Eberhardt Heyken as its new permanent envoy in Minsk, but Belarus authorities have so far failed to accredit him, OSCE officials said.

The democracy and security watchdog currently has no resident mission head in Belarus, although three diplomats - from Moldova, Britain and the United States - still represent it there.

The OSCE, a 55-nation body that monitors security and human rights in Europe, suspended Belarus from its parliamentary assembly following the 2000 parliamentary vote.