UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is paying a visit to Belarus in a bid to normalize ties with the country at a time when relations between Minsk and its traditional ally Russia are strained.
Mr Pompeo said Saturday that the United States is ready to provide Belarus with all the necessary oil and gas supplies, which is seen as a “slap” for Russia that has recently cut off supplies to the country.
Mr. Pompeo is the first Secretary of State to visit Belarus in 26 years. His visit to Minsk comes at a time of renewed energy tension between Minsk and Moscow. In a meeting with authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, Pompeo said the United States hopes to help Belarus guarantee an opportunity to achieve the “sovereignty” and “independence” it seeks.
The United States and the European Union have been frequent critics of authoritarian rule and respect for human rights in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. But Western powers have lifted most sanctions on Belarus after Mr Lukashenko released political prisoners and showed more tolerance for political opponents.
Ties improved after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 that Belarus declined to recognize. Belarus and the United States plan to return ambassadors to their respective countries after a 10-year break.
Washington will appoint a new ambassador to Minsk soon, Mr Pompeo said, adding that the United States will continue to push for reforms in the area of human rights and close economic ties./VOA
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