EU must act to prevent possible use of force in Belarus - Polish FM

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said on Monday that the EU had to take steps in order to prevent the possibility of the use of force in Belarus, and declared that Poland would be encouraging activity to this effect.

He also denied that Poland had inspired post-election protests in Belarus, and added that the Belarusian authorities had to understand that they had not been incited by actions from abroad but resulted from the lack of satisfaction of the people.

Addressing a press conference, the foreign minister said that international standards and good customs "make us refrain from the final evaluation of the voting process until the publication of official election results."

"But we could say that the course of the election campaign, the election day alone, and, above all, last night's developments, are against international standards," Czaputowicz stated.

"Media reports are alarming. We believe that there is a threat of escalation. And this is what all of us, namely, the international community, should oppose," the official said.

Czaputowicz recalled that before the election he had issued a joint statement with his French and German counterparts to underline the importance of democratic procedures. And he also mentioned his conversation with his Belarusian counterpart, during which he had presented Poland's expectations, including the observance of democratic standards and the release of political prisoners.

The Polish minister stated that Belarusians should be ensured electoral rights, and underlined that Poland supported independence and sovereignty of that country. Admitting that Belarus was an important EU neighbour and active member of the Eastern Partnership, Czaputowicz declared that Poland wanted to build strong ties between EU and Belarusian citizens, but on the basis of respect for common values.

He underlined that dialogue with the Belarusian authorities did not mean support of their actions, and that contacts with representatives of these authorities could never be interpreted as support of these authorities against society.

Minister Czaputowicz said that "Poland has been a supporter of bringing Belarus closer to the EU, and it wants to continue this role."

The official recalled that earlier on Monday he had asked the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to urgently convene a meeting regarding Belarus, and that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had called for an extraordinary EU meeting. He also announced that a statement of 27 EU members regarding the situation in Belarus would be published on Poland's initiative.

He stated that Belarus could become closer to the EU and the western world, but added that this should be based on respect of the law and fundamental democratic values. "We expect the Belarusian authorities to stop repression and start true dialogue with citizens," he said.

Referring to the charges made by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to which, participants in post-election protests in Belarus were being steered from Poland, Great Britain and the Czech Republic, the minister said they were groundless.

The charges had been made by the Belarusian president earlier on Monday. He said that registered phone calls made from abroad to Belarus were proof of such activities.

"The election showed that the Belarusian people were conscious, active and more and more interested in having real influence on shaping the future of their country," Czaputowicz stated.

The foreign minister also said that Poland wanted Belarus to be a democratic country, that it was an important neighbour with which Poland wanted to cooperate in various fields.

Election officials in Belarus said Monday that President Alexander Lukashenko had won his sixth consecutive term, taking over 80 percent of the vote. The country's central election commission said that with all ballots counted, Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for 26 years, took 80.23 percent of the vote and his main opposition challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had only 9.9 percent.