EU to Suspend Sanctions on Belarus

EU to Suspend Sanctions on Belarus
EU to Suspend Sanctions on Belarus

The European Union has agreed to suspend sanctions against the government of Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko after he won a fifth term as president, even though observers said the poll was flawed.

Once dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by Washington, Lukashenko, 61, won a fifth consecutive term on Sunday, picking up 83.5% of the vote, according to official figures, AFP reported.

EU foreign ministers have agreed to suspend sanctions for four months after the elections passed off without incident, France’s European Affairs Minister Harlem Desir told reporters, adding that they could be “reinstated immediately” if need be.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there appeared to have been less repression than in past elections, and the EU’s foreign affairs chief pledged to work with Belarus to improve the electoral framework before parliamentary polls next year.

But Washington voiced disappointment, saying the ballot fell “significantly short” of the country’s commitment to free and fair polls.

And observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Monday the ballot’s integrity had been undermined by “significant problems”, especially during the counting of the votes.

“It is clear that Belarus still has a long way to go towards fulfilling its democratic commitments,” said Kent Harstedt, head of the OSCE mission.