Washington Doesn't Rule Out "Thaw" In Relations With Belarus

The U.S. is ready to meet Belarus halfway, if positive moves there towards democracy are made, said Steven Pifer, U.S. Deputy Assistant State Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, in a TV bridge broadcast organized Wednesday night by the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.

According to Pifer, no positive changes have occurred in the relationship between the two countries since the last TV Bridge broadcast in August 2002. The White House spokesman blames the Belarus leadership for this, which, he said, had taken a number decisions, related to domestic and foreign policies, which, far from ensuring progress in democratization, caused sliding even father back than the former positions.

The U.S. diplomat recalled that the in the past Belarus was offered to make a so-called step-by-step approach to solving the conflict situation, according to which, the U.S responding to democratic changes in Belarus, would take reciprocal positive moves.

Replying to a question put by a RIA Novosti correspondent, he specified that at the same time no concrete positions were imposed on Minsk. The attention of the Belarus authorities was drawn to the need to put an end to the atmosphere of fear and repression, to stop exerting pressure on the individual media, bring the electoral system in keeping with the present standards in keeping with the existing norms and to grant necessary powers to the parliament.

Pifer expressed regret that the Belarus side, so far, showed no intention to do anything to that end.

A key element of improving relations with the United States, the diplomat said, was political liberalization to be carried out by the Lukashenko government. This, in Pifer's view, would immediately bring about normalization of relations not only with the U.S., but also with Europe.

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