Lithuania, Poland recalling ambassadors from Belarus

FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius attends a news conference in Riga during the coronavirus crisis
FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius attends a news conference in Riga during the coronavirus crisis
Andrius Sytas

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania and Poland have decided to recall their ambassadors to Belarus for consultations in the hope of reducing regional tensions, the Lithuanian foreign minister said on Monday, days after they dismissed a demand from Minsk that they do so.

Belarus accuses the two neighbouring countries of meddling in its affairs by hosting exiled opposition leaders and refusing to recognise the victory of veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko in a disupted Aug. 9 presidential election.

Lukashenko's opponents accuse him of rigging the vote, which he denies. The former Soviet republic has been rocked by weeks of protests that have drawn a violent crackdown, prompting the United States and European Union to impose sanctions on Minsk.

"With the Belarusian side we have agreed that a temporary recall of the ambassadors (of Lithuania and Poland) for consultations would serve to reduce tensions and help maintain diplomatic representation at ambassadorial level", Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said in a statement.

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas were both consulted before the move, the ministry said.

Belarus recalled its ambassadors from Poland and Lithuania on Friday for consultations and asked the two EU member states also to cut staff at their embassies in Minsk.

Lithuania said on Friday that neither it nor Poland would cut the embassy staff or recall their ambassadors.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; writing by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Gareth Jones)