US and EU Condemn Refusal of Belarusian Authorities to Issue Visas to Their Representatives for Pre-Electoral Visit
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 3, 2006
Statement by Sean McCormack, Spokesman
The European Union and United States recall their wish to have closer and better relations with Belarus and reaffirm their determination to support democracy and civil society in Belarus.
In view of their shared concern at developments surrounding forthcoming Presidential elections, the European Union and the United States had agreed to make a joint high-level visit to Minsk to convey these concerns to the Belarusian government. The Belarusian authorities did not issue visas allowing Robert Cooper, Director General for External and Political-Military Affairs of the Council of the European Union, and Dan Fried, US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, to enter Belarus simultaneously. In view of this, the European Union and the United States decided to cancel the joint high-level visit.
We are both disappointed by the failure of the Belarusian authorities to take this opportunity to engage in an open and frank dialogue with the international community.
We both believe that it is vital that Presidential elections on 19 March be conducted in a free and fair manner in accordance with international standards and in line with Belarus' commitments in the OSCE and the UN, so as to guarantee that the general will of the electorate prevails. If current undemocratic conditions persist, they will inevitably influence the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections. The European Union and the United States will judge the results and respond accordingly.
We reiterate that it is not the policy of the European Union or the United States to isolate Belarus. Rather we wish to see a democratic, stable and prosperous country with strong links with the international community. For this reason, the European Union has indicated that sustained movement in the right direction would make Belarus eligible to benefit from the European Neighborhood Policy initiative. We are prepared to stretch out our hands to Belarus and its people. We urge the Belarusian authorities to act in the interests of their country and its population.