Lukašenka hails his meeting with Zelenskiy

Aliaksandr Lukašenka played up the importance of his personal meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy while he was speaking at the Second Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine in Zhytomyr on Friday.

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“I am sure that our first meeting and personal acquaintance will become a huge step towards the strengthening and development of relations between our states,” Mr. Lukašenka said. “It was not simply our personal acquaintance and first meeting. Given the content of the meeting and the number of issues that we discussed, it sometimes felt like we were sorting out the mess that has been created over the past few years. It happened that the time picked us to sort out this mess. We started to do this today.”

According to Mr. Lukašenka, there are currently 120 cooperation agreements between provinces, districts and cities in Belarus and Ukraine.

“They allow us to constantly ensure the development of economic, trade, cultural and humanitarian ties,” he said. “The scale of cooperation made it possible to hold the First Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine in Homieĺ in 2018. The result of the dialogue that equal partners and good neighbors had there was business contracts and agreements worth more than $100 million. What is important is that all of them are being carried out.”

A large number of contracts and agreements that were signed during the forum in Zhytomyr testify to the event’s relevance, Mr. Lukašenka noted.  

He said that it had been proposed during his talks with Mr. Zelenskiy that the forum of regions should be held every year instead of every two years.

“I support this proposal,” he said. “The governments and the interstate commission will discuss this and other proposals and submit them to the presidents for us to make a decision.”

Mr. Lukašenka pointed out that Ukraine was one of Belarus’ main trading partners.

“Our trade increased by almost 25 percent last year,” he said. “But this is far from the limit of our capabilities. Common past and neighborliness predetermined our priorities, including in the economic sphere. These are primarily fuel and energy, agricultural, industrial, and transport and logistics sectors. We are willing to hold talks with a view to increasing exports of petroleum products to your companies. I suppose that we need to support joint projects in this regard. We do not hide the fact that we are also considering alternative ways of importing crude from the global markets.”     

According to Mr. Lukašenka, his talks with Mr. Zelenskiy mainly focused on alternatives for Belarus’ oil imports.

“We agreed that we would not simply consider options but would take certain steps in this regard,” he said. “This is quite natural. We are not allying against any other countries. It is a necessity. It is a matter of our states’ security.”