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Polish-Belarusian Expert Panel To Meet Next Week

March 04, 2010

MINSK -- The first meeting of a Belarusian-Polish expert panel tasked with seeking solutions to a conflict over an ethnic Polish cultural organization has been slated for next week, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Henryk Litvin, the Polish ambassador to Belarus, told RFE/RL that "ministers met in Budapest and agreed that the meeting may take place as early as the 9th" or 10th of March.

Although the composition of the group has not been made public, Litvin said it will be headed by Belarus's commissioner on religious and ethnic affairs, Leanid Hulyak, and Polish Undersecretary of State Andrzej Kremer.

An agreement to form the expert group was reached by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski at a meeting in Kyiv last week.

Poland is reportedly seeking the full legalization of the unofficial Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), an ethnic Polish cultural organization headed by Andzelika Borys.

The European Parliament is set to meet in Strasbourg on March 8-10, at which a resolution on Belarus is expected to be adopted. Some analysts believe the resolution will be postponed until the expert group agrees on a solution to the problem.

In 2005, a splinter group from the ZPB was formed, the so-called official Union of Belarusian Poles led by Stanislau Syamashka. It is backed and recognized by the Belarusian government.

The Belarusian government has refused to register the ZPB even though the Polish government considers it the sole representative of Belarus's ethnic Polish minority.

The seizure of the ZPB's "Polish House" in the town of Ivianiets, outside of Minsk, on February 8 caused a diplomatic row between Poland and Belarus. The Polish ambassador was briefly recalled for consultations as a result.

Source: Expert_Panel_To_Meet/1974929.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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