German foreign minister says he is impressed by Belarus’ commitment to EU

German Vice Chancellor/Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said in Minsk on Friday that he was impressed by the Belarusian government’s commitment to the idea of European unity.

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Speaking to reporters after his talks with Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey, Mr. Gabriel said that the talks had been intensive. 

According to Mr. Gabriel, his meeting with the Belarusian leader lasted for two hours. 

“Lukashenka and I talked a lot about Europe’s role,” he said. “In global terms, European unity is in Belarus’ political interests. Belarus can become a bridge between the EAEU [Eurasian Economic Union] and the EU. There is no need to opt for one union or the other. Perhaps Belarus is meant to become a bridge between them.” 

According to Mr. Gabriel, he and Mr. Lukashenka also discussed the situation in Ukraine. 

The German government appreciates Belarus’ position and its assistance in settling the Ukraine conflict, Mr. Gabriel said. 

He noted Belarusians’ friendly attitude to Germans. 

“We did not forget what horrible suffering we, Germans, caused Belarusians during the Nazi dictatorship and World War Two,” he said. “Everyone is always surprised how friendly people treat Germans here. This is your nation’s grant gesture to us decades later. We are grateful for it.” 

According to Mr. Gabriel, the world is currently in a mess. “But if our two peoples could show that after horrible times and crimes there can be partnership and even friendship, it is a sign for everybody else,” he said. “Belarus signals for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and states.” 

The German official said that he was glad that after the recent disputes about human rights it was possible to lift the EU’s sanctions against Belarus. “We manage to cooperate better,” he said. 

Mr. Gabriel expressed hope that Belarus would become a member of the Council of Europe in the future. 
“There are difficult issues regarding civil and political rights of individuals and principles of a rule-of-law state,” he said. “We are in conflict here, but it seems to me that we have found ways of discussing difficult issues.” 

He also expressed hope for Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s participation in a November 24 Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels. 

“It would be a good signal,” he said.