Vienna, 13 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The OSCE says it still is negotiating with Belarus about establishing an mission in Minsk to advise on the development of democracy in that country.
A spokesman at OSCE headquarters in Vienna said today the negotiations are taking place between Denmark, which currently holds the OSCE chair, and the Belarus government. The spokesman said the talks are focusing on the technicalities on how the mission would function and the rights and diplomatic status of the staff.
The spokesman said Belarus is seeking to impose conditions on the mission's work. He said a number of problems remain and it is uncertain how long the negotiations will take. OSCE is seeking to have an agreement for consideration at the OSCE foreign ministers meeting in Copenhagen next month.
An active search is also underway for a diplomat to head the mission. OSCE officials said some countries have suggested a Russian might be suitable, but others doubt if this would be useful considering the state of Russian-Belarus relations.
Our correspondent says OSCE's attempts to open a mission to promote democracy in Belarus have been troubled since they began at the beginning of the year. Belarus agreed to accept a mission in June but reversed its decision less than a month later. After intensive negotiations it again agreed to the mission in September. Earlier this year, an OSCE commissioner published a report critical of the political and judicial situation in Belarus and declared that the government led by Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is moving towards the creation of a totalitarian state. The report specifically criticized restrictions on freedom of assembly and the free press and also condemned the activities of the police and the judiciary.
The situation in Belarus also is being discussed this week at an OSCE meeting in Warsaw which is considering how European governments are implementing international human rights agreements.