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Despite Minsk's Crackdown, Hungary Says EU Should Pursue 'Dialogue' With Belarus


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka pose for a photo during their meeting in Minsk on June 5.

Hungary has called on the European Union to pursue "dialogue" with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto issued the call on August 13, despite the brutal suppression in Belarus of protesters who say the authoritarian leader's recent reelection was rigged.

"We are interested in the EU making decisions based on dialogue, which do not make it impossible for the European Union and Belarus to build their relationship in the future, or set back the Eastern Partnership program," Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook post.

The Eastern Partnership program was launched in 2009 and is meant to bring Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine closer to the EU without a clear offer of future membership.

In Belarus, at least two protesters have died and some 6,700 people have been detained since clashes erupted on August 9 following electoral authorities' announcement that exit polls showed Lukashenka winning a sixth term with about 80 percent of the vote, a claim rejected by opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The brutality displayed in Belarus by the security forces against unarmed protesters, which has included the use of live ammunition, has resulted in widespread condemnation from Western countries.

Tsikhanouskaya's campaign team says she was forced to leave Belarus by law enforcement officials when she tried to file a formal complaint with the Central Election Commission about their official results on August 10.

EU foreign ministers have scheduled a meeting on August 14 to discuss the brutal crackdown.

EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell called that meeting after saying that the EU could impose sanctions against "those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results."

In 2016, the European Union lifted most sanctions it had imposed against Belarus after Lukashenka freed political prisoners and allowed protests to take place.

During a visit to Belarus in June, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for a complete lifting of EU sanctions on Minsk.

"Hungary takes the view that the European Union should finally lift sanctions against Belarus," Orban said after talks with Lukashenka on June 5.

Lukashenka has praised Hungary, which has been at odds with Brussels over the rule of law and media freedom, as "Belarus's closest partner in the European Union."

Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Tomás Petricek tweeted that he summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Prague on August 12 to voice disagreement with the "violent crackdown on opposition protestors."

Petricek also dismissed Lukashenka's allegation that the EU-member Czech Republic was behind the protests in Belarus.

With reporting by Reuters
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