Russia attacks Czech FM for 'shocking' Belarus remarks
27 February 2009, 23:24 CET
) - Russia Friday attacked as "politically shocking" a Czech EU presidency warning to Belarus not to recognise the independence of Georgian breakaway regions, the Interfax news agency reported.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said earlier this week in Brussels that if Belarus followed Russia by recognising pro-Moscow Abkhazia and South Ossetia it would face a "very, very difficult situation."
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has moved to improve relations with the European Union after years of isolation and the bloc's foreign policy chief Javier Solana last week made his first ever visit to the country.
"The comment by Schwarzenberg cannot be described as anything other than politically shocking," a high-ranking Russian foreign ministry source told Interfax.
"It cannot be seen as anything other than crude pressure by the EU presidency on the sovereignty of the state of Belarus," the source added.
Lukashenko has said that parliament would consider recognising the two regions' independence this year, in a move that would make Belarus only the third state to make such a move after Russia and Nicaragua.
But up to now no further steps on a recognition appear to have been taken.
Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet republic of 10 million people in an authoritarian fashion since 1994.
But last October, EU foreign ministers suspended a travel ban on Lukashenko and several associates in a move designed to encourage democracy in the wake of disputed elections.
"It is natural that if Belarus or the parliament, if they would recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it would create a very, very difficult situation for Belarus," Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating presidency, told reporters on Monday.
"Belarus would be out of a European consensus. That must be clear to them."
If Belarus makes progress along the democratic road it could also become part of the EU's new 'Eastern Partnership' scheme which it plans to set up with other former Soviet states Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The partnership is due to be launched in Prague in May, though no decision has yet been taken on the involvement on Belarus.