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Will Belarus recognise breakaway regions?

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, October 4
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko blamed the Russian government for Minsk's non- recognition of Georgia’s rebel regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia stating that Belarus was ready to recognise Georgia’s two breakaway regions. On October 2, at a news conference held for Russian journalists Lukashenko explained the reasons why Minsk delayed its decision regarding the recognition, highlighting that Moscow refused “to share” the negative consequences that Belarus could expect from the West should it make that decision.

“Taking into consideration our relations – between Belarus and Russia – of course we should have recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia; no matter who [Russia] is our ally,” Lukashenko said. “When the issue of recognition arose I wanted to thoroughly understand the situation and find out what actually happened there. All the sides expressed their own positions. We definitely took Russia’s side, but when it came to the recognition, I said it was a serious action and required more consideration,” the Belarussian President stated, adding that every other republic of the CIS has refused to recognise those territories. “Unfortunately, it is our ally's fault that we have not decided this question so far, to be honest,” he said.

Lukashenko said that Minsk held talks with the EU and US when they introduced the mechanism they have developed and explained what they were planning to do over this issue.

“They [EU and the US] started hesitating and tried to pressure us. Then I directly asked them a pragmatic question - whether they would replace Russia for us? I was refused,” Lukashenko said.

“I met with one western politician who said, ‘Do you really want to recognise Ossetia and Abkhazia?’ I responded, ‘And why does it make you so uneasy? We are allies [with Russia]’ and then he laid out those relations, which we would have had with Europe and the United States [in case of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]… You should know that we have slightly more trade [turnover] with the European Union, than with Russia; it’s billions of dollars. When Russia pushed us out from market, Europe did not dare to do that…” Lukashenko stated.

In February 2009, information was released that the then EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had warned the Belarus President against recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In his remarks Lukashenko also mentioned President Saakashvili’s interview, which was aired by Belarus state television in July, 2010 and which was described in Russia as “an unfriendly step” of Minsk towards Moscow.

According to Lukashenko, with that interview the Georgian leader was sending a message to the Russian leadership about the need to build relations. “That was the first time I saw this kind of Saakashvili,” he said.

On July 15, President Saakashvili in his interview to the Belarus 1st Channel said that Georgia has “huge, huge sympathies towards the Belarus people” and Tbilisi enjoyed Minsk’s support whenever it needed

Commenting on Belarus’ possible recognition of Georgia’s territories, Saakashvili emphasised that Russia still continued “pressing Belarus” to recognise the breakaway territories and expressed his hope that Belarus would act wisely.

At his news conference the Belarus President also refuted the information released by Russian news agencies that Minsk did not recognise the territories because it had not received USD 500 million.