U.S. to Return Ambassador to Belarus as Minsk Seeks New Friends

Aliaksandr Kudrytski

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans to return its ambassador to Belarus, ending a freeze in ties with the authoritarian former Soviet republic which had lasted for more than 11 years.

“We are happy to see that chapter closing, and we are closing it because of the concrete steps in the direction that you, Mr. President, had taken to improve this relationship,” David Hale, Undersecretary of State for political affairs, told Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in Minsk.

The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Minsk in 2008 as relations between the two countries spiralled lower over Washington’s allegations of human-rights abuses by the Belarusian government. In 2006, Lukashenko was subjected to U.S. sanctions, which remain in place.

Amid rising tensions in recent months with his main ally and patron, Russia, Lukashenko has sought to rebuild ties with the U.S. and Europe. Moscow has pushed for closer links under a longstanding agreement to form a union state, but Minsk has been reluctant to give in too much to its much larger neighbor. The U.S., meanwhile, has sought to limit Russia’s sway over its neighbors.

Hale said the U.S. strongly supports Belarus’ sovereignty and independence. Lukashenko told the U.S. diplomat he wouldn’t allow the deployment of short- or medium-range missiles in his country -- something Russia has suggested it might do in response to threatened U.S. military moves in Europe -- but only if doing that didn’t undermine Belarus’ security.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aliaksandr Kudrytski in Minsk, Belarus at akudrytski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net, Gregory L. White, Torrey Clark

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