Lukashenka: Huge number of observers invited to attend Zapad 2017
Belarus has taken steps to dispel neighbors` concerns over its coming joint military exercise with Russia and invited a "huge number" of observers to attend the maneuvers, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Thursday in Minsk, speaking at a meeting with top officials representing the Security Council`s State Secretariat.
Mr. Lukashenka said that Minsk had already provided detailed explanations to NATO and neighboring states, including Ukraine, about the exercise. "The exercise is open. We are inviting or have already invited a huge number of observers. Come and look," he said.
Mr. Lukashenka stressed that Zapad (West) 2017 would be a defensive exercise.
The head of state also announced that Belarus would host a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) this fall. The country holds the CSTO chairmanship this year. "Belarus is always expected to deliver an efficient chairmanship," he said. "We need to discuss briefly how events concerning the Belarusian chairmanship are developing, how we have been carrying out the work that we announced."
Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Dzmitry Mironchyk, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, said that military observers representing Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Sweden and Norway would be invited to monitor Zapad 2017.
Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are not required to invite foreign observers to military exercises involving fewer than 13,000 troops but Minsk will still invite representatives of the United Nations, the OSCE, NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States to observe the event, said Mr. Mironchyk. Invitations will also be sent to defense attaches with foreign diplomatic missions in Belarus, he noted.
Belarus formally notified all members of the OSCE of the coming exercise back in 2016, said the ministry`s spokesman. "All necessary information about the Zapad 2017 exercise will be sent to OSCE member states no later than 42 days before the start of the exercise," he said.
The maneuvers will take place in Belarus and Russia between September 14 and 20.