EU reaches out to Belarus

June 24, 2013 at 1:13 PM
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LUXEMBOURG, June 24 (UPI) -- The European Union announced Monday it was suspending sanctions on the Belarusian foreign minister to make diplomatic outreach easier.

The Council of the European Union said Monday it has suspended the travel ban on Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey "to facilitate diplomatic contacts" between the EU and Minsk.

The EU said Makey's name would stay on a list of sanctioned individuals but a visa ban would not apply to him.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Council last week was critical of the political and human rights record in Belarus. The report found the basic human liberties in Belarus were "systematically restricted."

Belarus in January released thousands of political prisoners from custody as part of a general amnesty program. Rights groups critical of the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko said some of his opponents were tortured while in custody.

Belarus had parliamentary elections in October though European monitors said there was a general lack of political freedom in the country.

The EU said the decision on Makey does not reflect any overall policy change toward Belarus.

"The EU maintains its policy of critical engagement with Belarus, including its policy of sanctions, with a view to furthering the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles in Belarus," the bloc said.

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