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Belarus/EU: Dialogue Kept Open Despite 'Deep Concerns'

By Joel Blocker and Clifford Smith

Prague, 29 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - The European Union today expressed what it called its "deep concern" at actions by the Belarus Government in recent weeks. The EU specifically cited what it described as a "wave of arbitrary arrests of demonstrators and members of the opposition."

But the EU also decided to keep open its diplomatic dialogue with the government in Minsk. It formally extended the mission of former Dutch Justice Minster Henry Kosto as the Union's Special Representative to Belarus.

In a statement issued in Luxembourg, the EU's 15 foreign ministers referred to undertakings expressed in April 10 letters to the Union by Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich. The statement said that "the EU notes a clear discrepancy between (these undertakings) and recent developments in Belarus."

The statement went on to say that the recent events raised doubts about the stated willingness of the Belarusian Government to work constructively with the EU. But it also said the EU remains committed to a negotiation process through which Belarus can eventually play a meaningful role on the European continent.