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Belarusian Leader To Sign Agreement On Simplification Of EU Visa Regime


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka opens a school in Minsk on September 2.

MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decided to sign an agreement simplifying the visa regime for Belarusian citizens travelling to European Union member states.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatol Hlaz told reporters in Minsk on September 20 that Lukashenka "understands the move's significance for the mobility of our population after thoroughly analyzing every possible risk and implication."

"We have always supported enabling human and business contacts," Hlaz added.

According to Hlaz, the agreement must be ratified by Belarus's parliament and approved by the European Parliament.

Hlaz's statement comes three days after U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said in Minsk that the two countries will resume hosting ambassadors after an 11-year hiatus amid mutual growing concern over Russia's foreign-policy adventures.

Hale made the statement after talks with Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for a quarter of a century, and comes amid more frequent meetings between Washington and Minsk officials over the past few years. Last month, then-U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton made the first visit by a high-ranking White House official to Belarus in two decades.

The United States and the EU placed sanctions on Belarus in the wake of a crackdown that followed the 2006 presidential election.

The sanctions prompted Belarus to recall its ambassador from the United States in 2008 and the U.S. ambassador in Minsk left the country shortly afterward.

The two countries began to reconsider their frosty relationship after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, raising concerns about Belarus's territorial integrity.

Moscow has been seeking to revive a union state between Russia and Belarus that some analysts fear could result in Minsk losing much of its political independence.

The Kremlin has also been pushing to host an air base in Belarus after NATO expanded its presence in Eastern Europe to deter Russia. Minsk has been reluctant to support the move.

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