Belarus, OSCE Manage to Come to Terms

Belarus and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) seem to have come to terms. According to the comment made by Igor Leshchenya, Belarusian President's aide, 'On December 30, 2002, the Permanent Council of the OSCE made a decision to open its office in Minsk. The consultative-observing group of the organisation in Belarus will be shut down'. Mr. Leshchenya was among the participants of his country's talks with the OSCE in Vienna, Austria.

Igor Leshchenya believes that this decision is 'the evidence of understanding among the member countries if the OSCE of the necessity of continuing relations with Belarus. 'This decision of the Permanent Council means that the organisation acknowledges the correctness of Belarus' grievances against the consultative-observing group. The destructive methods used by the group in its work in Belarus and its differentiated political sympathies that led to the group's interference in Belarus' home affairs undermined trust for the group on the part of the country's government and public.' Mr. Leshchenya believes that the activities of the group were detrimental to the prestige of the OSCE. 'We hope', he continued to say, 'that the personnel of the new office of the OSCE in Minsk will remember about this negative experience and act in accordance with the principles of the organisation, their mandate, and Belarussian laws.'

The realm of the responsibilities of the new office of the OSCE has been considerably extended, its principal objectives now including assistance to the government of Belarus as concerns the development of the country's economy and environmental protection. The government of Belarus also counts on true assistance on the part of the OSCE as concerns dealing with the consequences of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl.

President's Aide further said that, 'The achievement of a compromise as concerns the renewed presence of the OSCE in Minsk shows our fidelity to our obligations toward the organisation and our wish to go on to a new stage in our relationship. The republic of Belarus has shown its good will and we feel we have the right to expect the OSCE to act likewise'. Mr. Leshchenya believes that an adfequate step on the part of the OSCE to meet Belarus halfway would be 'the elimination of the unfounded discriminatory visa restrictions introduced by the 14 EU member countries, the US, and Norway against Belarussian leaders.'

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