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OSCE Unlikely to Suspend Belarus Membership - U.S. Diplomat

RIA Novosti

17:47 02/03/2012 MINSK, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - The issue of suspending Belarus membership from the OSCE has not been raised, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Ian Kelly said on Friday.

“Such a mechanism exists but it is rarely used and I don’t think there have ever been serious discussions on this issue,” the U.S. diplomat said, adding that the only such precedent was the 1992 membership suspension of the former republic of Yugoslavia.

The diplomatic scandal between Europe and Belarus broke out late last month after the EU announced that it had blacklisted another 21 Belarusian officials over their alleged involvement in the ongoing crackdown on the country’s opposition. More than 200 people were already on the blacklist, including President Alexander Lukashenko, two of his sons, and most of the country's top leadership. They have been banned from entering the EU and their European assets have been frozen.

The U.S. also said the release of political prisoners was a main precondition for the return of the U.S. ambassador to the country.

The U.S. Embassy in Minsk reduced its staff from 35 to five diplomats and withdrew its ambassador “due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government” in 2008.

“Our main precondition for the reinstatement of normal diplomatic relations is the release of all political prisoners and an end to all repressions against media, lawyers, representatives of the civil society,” the diplomat said. “Of course, there are other factors, but this is the number one component.”

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