German lawmakers warn Belarus of a “sanction spiral”

German Foreign Minister Mars warned of a “long and strict spiral of sanctions” when EU Foreign Ministers met Thursday to discuss further sanctions against Belarus.

The Belarusian administration intercepted Ryanair’s flight over the airspace on Sunday and arrested 26-year-old opposition journalist Roman Protasevic and his 23-year-old Russian girlfriend Sophia Sapega. It evoked a strong reaction from the west.

The EU has already urged airlines to evade Belarusian airspace and banned Belarusian airlines from the EU this week. This is in addition to sanctions and crackdowns on protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other officials, who gave Lukashenko a sixth term in the August elections last year and was rejected by opposition groups as fraudulent.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said Thursday that prior to the meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, “individual sanctions were very advanced at the technical level,” and lawmakers would discuss “implementing sectoral and economic sanctions.” It was.

Josep Borrell
Josep Borrell, Head of Foreign Policy for the European Union, will arrive at the EU Summit on May 24, 2021 at the European Council building in Brussels. (Olivier Hoslet / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

Parliamentarians are aiming for an agreement on June 21, when they meet in Luxembourg, and before the next EU summit, but German Foreign Minister hopes that “this will happen within a few days.” Stated.

Mars told reporters that sanctions needed to be enforced quickly to put “significant” pressure on Lukashenko and his administration.

“I want to make sure that the sanctions put a lot of pressure on Beralski’s economic and financial structure, the effects of which are felt, and that the Lukashenko administration has passed the moment of dialogue as long as something like last week happened. .”He said.

“I think the first sign we’re hoping for is the release of more than 400 political prisoners, and unless that has happened yet, the EU will introduce their new sanctions. I can’t forgive my efforts. “

Mars warned that unless Lukashenko retreated, a “long and strict spiral of sanctions” would come.

“We will monitor how effective this is in Belarus and whether Lukashenko will forgive. If he does not, this is exactly what Lukashenko did, so this is the beginning of a long and harsh sanctions spiral. It must be assumed that it is not too much. Not only does the EU refuse to silence about this, but it is unacceptable to spend the next few weeks to realize a way to increase pressure on Belarus and Lukashenko. ” ..

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gives a speech during a meeting in Minsk
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will give a speech on May 26, 2021 in Minsk, Belarus, in a meeting with members of parliament, members of the Constitutional Commission and representatives of government agencies. (Maxim Guchek / BelTA / Handout via Reuters)

Other EU Foreign Ministers have suggested that potash and oil can also be targeted.

“I think the keyword is potash. Belarus produces so many potashes and is one of the largest suppliers in the world, and if you manage anything in this area, I think it will have a big impact on Lukashenko. “Masu,” said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn before the meeting.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the EU should consider attacking the oil sector with sanctions.

Exports of potassium, a potassium-rich salt used in fertilizers, are one of Belarus’ major sources of foreign currency, and state-owned Belarus states that it produces 20% of the world’s supply. I will.

According to the EU Statistics Bureau, the block imported € 1.2 billion ($ 1.5 billion) worth of chemicals, including potash, and more than € 1 billion of crude oil and related products such as fuels and lubricants from Belarus last year.

Ministers also said it was important to try to keep Russia in mind.

“What we don’t want to do is move the country with the coat of arms of Russia,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

“Without Russia, without Russia’s support, as everyone knows that Lukashenko has no future in Belarus,” Mars said it was important to talk to Russia.

“I think this will affect relations between Russia and the EU, so it is important to continue the dialogue with Russia, but we must use the same language as Russia with clear expectations for Belarus and sanctions. No … “He added.

Raman Plata Sevic
Belarusian journalist Raman Platasevic will take a photo on November 17, 2019 in front of the sign in Minsk, Belarus. (Euro Radio via AP)

Lukashenko defended the flight detour on Wednesday, claiming that the threat of the bomb used by Belarusian authorities to ground Protasevic’s flight came from Switzerland and that the flight was near a nuclear power plant.

He also defended Platasevic’s arrest, saying journalists were working to foster a “bloody rebellion.”

Prata Sevic, who left Belarus in 2019, ran a popular messaging app. The app played a key role in helping organize large-scale protests in recent months that put Lukashenko under unprecedented pressure at home following the August vote. However, influential people have only tightened the crackdown, with more than 35,000 arrested and thousands beaten since the protests began.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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