No solution in Belarus without dialogue with Russia, says Europe Minister

European affairs – Belarus – Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 24 (excerpt)

Paris, 4 September 2020

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Belarus/Baltic sanctions

Q. – You mentioned Belarus. The Baltic States have put sanctions in place; they’re somewhat alone. For the moment, there hasn’t been this kind of reaction in Brussels; is it for fear of the Kremlin’s reaction?

THE MINISTER – No, not at all. And moreover, I’d like to point out that the sanctions anticipated by the three Baltic States you mention will – in a few days, I hope – be European ones. The principle was endorsed by the heads of State and government themselves. Officials, very senior officials, even members of the current Belarusian government, will have sanctions imposed on them. And I think we had a very firm message, much more so than in previous cases in the region, right from day one, to support – I spoke to the opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya –, to signal this European political support. You’ll tell me “it’s symbolic”, but that matters as well because there are people risking their necks on the streets of Minsk to defend democracy; we’ve got to be at their side.

Q. – She’s exiled in Lithuania…

THE MINISTER – Yes, and it’s a European Union member State which has taken her in.

The third element of this commitment by Europe, and President Macron in particular, is dialogue with Moscow, because there can’t be a solution without an agreement, consultation with Russia, there can only be one if – we sometimes haven’t done this in the past – we show our determination, including our sanctions, and our unity.

Turkey/Greece

Q. – The Greeks have accused Turkey of interference in waters where it wants to drill for gas, in Mediterranean waters. So France is rather in favour of using strong-arm tactics and has sent its frigates, while we get the impression that Germany clearly favours mediation. What do you want to achieve at the next European summit on 24 September as regards this Turkish matter?

THE MINISTER – First and foremost, we want the provocations to stop. Turkey is behaving in an unacceptable way in the eastern Mediterranean, both towards Greece and Cyprus. These are two European Union countries. If we believe in European sovereignty, we can’t say, “look, that’s nice, there go some ships.” So there must be a firm reaction, including through a military presence. We aren’t trying to inflame the situation or have an armed conflict – not at all. But there are powers, including Turkey, which are constantly testing the unity and sovereignty, the strength of Europe.

Either we say nothing and put up with these provocations in the end, or we respond. This could also mean sanctions and it will – to be very specific and answer your point – be on the agenda of a new European summit at the end of September, where there will most probably be a range of options and sanctions vis-à-vis Turkey on this issue. (…)./.

Published on 09/09/2020

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