MINSK -- During a visit to Minsk, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called on the European Union to lift sanctions that have been imposed on Belarus over its poor human rights record, Belarusian state media report.
"It's impossible to build a partnership with sanctions. That's why the time has come for the European Union to cancel the existing sanctions imposed on Belarus," Orban said on June 5 after holding talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, according to the BelTA news agency.
Lukashenka praised Hungary as "Belarus's closest partner in the European Union."
Earlier this year, the EU extended its arms embargo on Belarus by one year, as well as asset freezes and visa bans on four Belarusian citizens.
The EU introduced the embargo in 2011, along with the visa bans and asset freezes on four Belarusian companies and 174 individuals, including Lukashenka, after a violent crackdown on demonstrators that followed the December 2010 presidential election.
The bloc lifted most of these measures in 2016, citing improvements in the human rights situation in the ex-Soviet republic after political prisoners were released.
Orban said on June 5 that he had discussed with Lukashenka the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed some 13,200 people since April 2014.
The implementation of the Minsk agreements that sought to put an end to fighting "is the only hope for resolving the situation in Ukraine," the Hungarian prime minister said.
Lukashenka said his country was "ready for the further development of dialogue [with NATO] based on mutual respect and equal partnership."
Belarus and the West have recently sought to mend ties to reduce Russia’s influence in the country.
Hungarian PM Orban Calls For End To EU Sanctions On Belarus