U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Belarus, seeking to normalise ties at time when relations between Minsk and its traditional ally Russia are under strain.
Pompeo met President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday (February 1).
Washington and the European Union frequently criticize authoritarian rule in Belarus, but they've lifted most sanctions since he freed political prisoners and showed more tolerance for opposition.
Pompeo -- the most senior U.S. official to visit in more than two decades -- said the U.S. supported the country's independence but was aware of its ties to Moscow.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, MIKE POMPEO, SAYING:
"We understand, your neighbour, there is a long history with Russia. It is not about picking us between the two. We want to be here. You'll see, we built out team diplomatically here, by almost double. We'll do that again. We'll have an ambassador here before too long."
Relations between Minsk and Moscow soured after the two sides failed to agree on an oil supply contract.
Belarus seeks alternative oil sources, including from the United States.