Support for Belarusian civil society is in Poland's interest - FM

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Monday expressed his conviction that support for Belarusian civil society lies in Poland's interest. He added that the question of the country's democratization should be left entirely to Belarusians.

Minister Rau told a Polish public radio broadcaster on Monday that Poland had to look at the development of the situation in Belarus "also from the perspective of NATO's eastern flank."

"The increased military presence in Belarus is the last thing we need in this part of Europe," he stated, adding that "the weaker Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is before the Russian Federation, the more probable this scenario is."

Repeating that support for Belarusian civil society was in Poland's interest, Rau stated that the democratisation of Belarus was, in the long run, a guarantee of that country's political stabilisation and harmonious development.

At the same time, the official noted that all questions regarding the socio-political system should be left to Belarusians. "This must be their choice, since, when this is their choice - and this is what I keep telling our European partners - then common, universal and European values will win in Belarus."

Speaking on the same subject, Minister Rau told the Sieci weekly that one could be impressed by Belarusian society's fully-determined defence of common European values, like dignity, human rights and democracy. He also said that protests in Belarus were just the beginning of a civil society.

"There is not a single political programme there, there is no clear leadership. (...) I am convinced that dialogue between the authorities and society will start sooner or later, but I do not know how long we will have to wait and what the cost will be," the minister concluded.

Belarus has been torn by protests since an August 9 presidential election, in which the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko won a 6th term in office with 80.1 percent of the vote against main contender Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's 10.1 percent. Mass demonstrations against what is held to have been a rigged vote have been continuing ever since, sparking brutal reactions from the police and security forces. Also on Sunday, about 100,000 demonstrators marched in the Belarusian capital calling for the authoritarian president's ouster.