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Poland Says No Danger Of Military Conflict On Border With Belarus, As Merkel Speaks With Lukashenka

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Migrants Receive Temporary Shelter In Belarus After Border Crisis Escalates
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WATCH: Migrants Receive Temporary Shelter In Belarus After Border Crisis Escalates

Polish President Andrzej Duda said that there is no danger of military conflict at its border with Belarus, where thousands of migrants from the Middle East are gathered, seeking to enter the European Union.

Polish troops have been sent in recent days to help secure the border with Belarus and prevent the migrants from crossing into the European Union member state.

"There is no military danger. The [Polish] Army is there only as security, but we do not have a military problem," Duda told journalists at a press conference with his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic, after talks in Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro.

However, Duda called on NATO to closely monitor the situation on the EU's border with Belarus.

The migrants, who have been on the border between Belarus and Poland for several days, clashed on November 16 with Polish forces as they sought to enter the EU. Polish forces used water cannons, tear gas, and smoke bombs to keep them at bay.

Brussels has accused Minsk of luring the impoverished migrants to Belarus and then pushing them toward the border with EU members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in an attempt to destabilize the bloc.

Polish Forces Clash With Migrants Massed On Belarusian-Polish Border
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The EU earlier this week imposed a new round of sanctions against Belarus for its actions in instigating the migrant crisis, which has already resulted in several deaths, largely from the cold.

The migrants are living in makeshift camps and their situation is expected to deteriorate as winter approaches.

Duda said that Belarus refused to accept Polish humanitarian aid for the migrants.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka held another phone call on November 17, their second this week, amid a migration crisis.

Germany said Merkel and Lukashenka spoke about the European Union providing humanitarian aid to the migrants and helping them return home.

Lukashenka’s press service claimed the two leaders agreed to a Belarus-EU dialogue on the migrant crisis, something the Germans denied.

"Relevant officials to be determined from both sides will immediately start negotiations to resolve the existing problems," Lukashenka’s press service said in a statement.

The EU has refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus or have any contact with him following rigged presidential elections in August 2020 that sparked a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Meanwhile, in a call with Lukashenka on November 15, Merkel discussed humanitarian aid for the thousands of impoverished refugees and migrants stranded in the forested borderlands between the EU and Belarus.

It was Lukashenka’s first call with a Western leader since the August 2020 presidential election and followed a decision by the European Union to rachet up sanctions against his government for luring the migrants from the Middle East.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said it is "useful" to speak with Minsk "to improve this humanitarian situation" even if the talks are with a leader whose legitimacy Europe and Germany do not recognize.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on November 17 welcomed contact between Belarus and the EU, calling it "very important." Russia backs Lukashenka in his standoff with the Belarus opposition.

However, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said the November 15 call was "not a good step" and appeared to be "an acceptance of [Lukashenka’s] choice."

Brussels has accused Lukashenka of instigating the migrant crisis in retaliation for several rounds of EU sanctions against his government for its repression of peaceful protesters.

Poland warned on November 17 that the crisis could last for months or even years, a day after its military forces used tear gas and water cannon to deter stone-throwing migrants.

With reporting by BelTA and Reuters
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