BELARUS: Interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Sergei Martynov
Reuters News Agency

March 13, 2006, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Minsk

Reuters:
Is it really possible for Belarus to expect recognition of presidential election coming on March 19 against the background of statements already made by some Western politicians before the election has taken place, it would be unfair?

Sergei Martynov:
Firstly, I would like to underline the most important thing: the choice of the people does not demand external recognition; the choice is all-sufficient. The choice will be as Belarus decides. This approach is a matter of principal for us. Secondly, it is evident that the authorities of Belarus are not sitting with an open mouth and expecting that the elections will or will not be recognized by external factors. And, thirdly, I think that you answered your question yourself since the statements made before the elections that they are allegedly undemocratic, that they are allegedly not free, that they are allegedly rigged prove that the diagnosis has been already made, and our counter-partners are just waiting for an accomplished fact to say so.

As you might have seen, they are not even trying to hide it. Statements have even been made by official representatives, primarily, of foreign ministries, have already appeared declaring the elections will not the way they like. Before that, in fact, the same persons in the United States, who officially represent the United States, have declared they did not support candidate Lukashenko at any conditions. Brussels has gone even further: openly supported one of the candidates. This action in any political system, in any democracy in particular, is considered as absolutely evident and unacceptable interference in the internal affaires, political process, electoral process of another state.

The time will tell us how far-sighted and wise Brussels and Washington were to make such steps. Now, as we realize, two opposition candidates are talking about stepping down before the elections. The reason is quite obvious: they did not expect many votes, but it turns out that Brussels is betting on a horse that will not even finish the race.

Therefore, coming back to your question again, we proceed from a choice of the Belarusian people, and we are not affected by external factors in this respect.

Reuters:
What is your point of view on the prospects of relations of Belarus with the EU and USA after the presidential elections? May Minsk hope that a pragmatic approach will prevail in the EU and USA and that at least de-facto if not de-jure the pressure on Belarus by the West will loosen?

Sergei Martynov:
Undoubtedly, we would like to expect our Western colleagues, partners, counter-partners, whatever we call them, will truly open their eyes and look at, as they say, a reality and accept it as it is. By the way, they do not have any doubt what choice will be made by the Belarusian people, all of them are openly talk about that. So, as a result of their fair look at life we want our colleagues to understand the main idea: the choice by the Belarusian people has already been made or will be made. This choice does not threaten interests of the European Union or the United States. The choice threatens no one. I hope they will be ready to realize that Belarus is a reliable and responsible partner, first of all on the European continent. You know Belarus is not a dependent on Europe. We are a partner in the true sense of the word. We trade actively. The interest of business circles in European countries in Belarus is high as that of the Belarusian business circles in Europe. We are an important donor of security in Europe, starting with nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues ending with general armaments and such fields as combating against international crime. Our merits and contribution are recognized at this point. We are the most important transit country. There is no whole and complete Europe without Belarus. We would like our partners to see and realize finally that their policy with respect to Belarus is wrong. Wrong is not only because we do not like it but because it is not effective. They have been pursuing this policy since 1996-1997. This policy is of no benefit to anyone: neither to them, nor to us. We want them to see it after the elections and hope that the elections themselves will help, since our partners will understand that for five more years they have to work with the leadership of an important European country.

Reuters:
Is official Minsk planning to hold any consultations with the EU and US on the eve of the presidential election in order to obtain their recognition or change the position of the West on the elections? Do you expect such recognition?

Sergei Martynov:
The balloon or the ball is on their side, we are not ready, I am not ready, at least, to guess at coffee ground. We have offered recently to the European Union to hold negotiations at very high level on the entire scope of our problems in order to overcome the existing painful situation. If they are ready to do that our proposal is still in force, it is on the table. I would like to stress that Belarus is not begging or cadging for cooperation. Belarus offers cooperation. If it is taken we will work with pleasure. Bearing in mind that our proposals will be taken.

Reuters:
How do you think Minsk is able to change the position of the West with regard to the presidential elections and to the Belarusian policy as a whole, and what kind of steps might be taken by Belarus for that? What are concrete steps the Belarusian authorities are expecting from the EU and USA?

Sergei Martynov:
The logic of any negotiations is if sides wish to agree on something they have to take steps towards each other. That is what we offer bearing in mind at the same time that both sides should do it but not only the one. This is our fundamental approach to such negotiations and it is known in Brussels.

We say that there should be no preliminary conditions. I do not believe that we have to speculate now, at the talk with you in this interview, what kind of steps the West should take or what kind of steps Belarus should take. One thing is clear to me, if the sides wish to adjust relations, and Belarus wishes (I am able to speak on behalf of Belarus), so they have to make counter steps to each other. And it is necessary and possible to negotiate what kind of steps are to be taken.

Reuters:
The EU speaks lately about the possible abolition of trade preferences for Belarus. How badly may it affect our country? Is Belarus is planning to redirect its exports flows in case if such decision is made by the EU?

Sergei Martynov:
To start with, let`s speak about the nature of sanctions as such. I would like to underline what I repeatedly have already said about: sanctions never solve any problems. And I hope they clearly understand it in the European Union.

Secondly, to us it seems more than doubtful to use economic sanctions for political ends. It does not smell good.

Thirdly, will it affect Belarus and how? Certainly, it will, because in fact our trade flows are balanced between Russia and the European Union: 44 percent of our exports go to the European Union countries. We may assume that there is a share in incomes of any Belarusian family that is formed by exports to these countries. Does the European Union wish to deprive the Belarusian population of their income or its part? Is it fair? I believe it is not. Certainly they are masters of their decisions, but I do not believe that such measures would make the EU popular with Belarusians. Moreover, it is absolutely clear that such sanctions will cause damage and will cause severe damage to our concrete business partners in Europe that work with Belarus. Belarus is not suffering but concrete companies, firms, businesses - I believe it will be more painful for them than for us as a country. And It is probably worth to say that a number of countries, particularly, neighboring, earn seriously from trade with Belarus. Will it do good to economies of these countries, some of which (direct neighbors) have 30-40 percent of their income or freight turnover from Belarus. As for us, you`re probably right assuming that at the end we will overcome it since goods we export to the European Union are liquid. If they were not liquid they would not be sold over there by definition. At the same time, by definition, if they are liquid they would be sold in other place. Therefore, if I were to represent Brussels I would think hard before making such decisions. I would like to believe in the wisdom of European politicians.