Biden Says Situation On Poland-Belarus Border ‘A Great Concern’

U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed concern about the situation on the Poland-Belarus border, where thousands of migrants are sheltering in freezing conditions on the Belarus side hoping to cross into the European Union.

“We think it’s a great concern. We communicated our concern to Russia, we communicated our concern to Belarus,” Biden told reporters on November 12 as he departed the White House for a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat. “We think it’s a problem.”

Biden’s remarks came hours after Vice President Kamala Harris voiced similar concerns during a visit to France, where she said she discussed the issue with President Emmanuel Macron.

Belarus “is engaged in very troubling activity. It is something that I discussed with President Macron, and the eyes of the world and its leaders are watching what is happening there,” she told a news conference.

EU leaders have accused Minsk of “hybrid warfare” tactics, saying it has lured migrants from war-torn and impoverished countries in the Middle East and Africa and then pushed them toward the border.

EU officials say Minsk’s policies are a form of retaliation for sanctions that Brussels has imposed on authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime over its violent crackdown on dissent after he claimed victory in last year’s election widely seen as rigged.

Belarus denies that it is doing so. It says it cannot help resolve the migration crisis unless Europe lifts sanctions that were imposed in response to the crackdown.

Ukraine is wary about becoming a new flashpoint in the crisis and on November 12 said it would send some of its border guards and national guard officers to its border with Poland to share intelligence on the handling of the crisis.

“Ukraine supports Poland in this difficult time and hopes that it will be able to resolve the artificially inspired crisis in a peaceful and civilized way,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyskiy said, according to a statement.

Belarus’s Defense Ministry said on November 12 that it was holding joint paratrooper exercises with Russia near the Belarus-Polish border. Moscow called the drills part of a “surprise combat readiness check.”

Belarus also said on November 12 that it had sent some 2,000 migrants back to their countries and had revoked the right of 30 tourist firms to invite migrants into Belarus.

Several airlines said on November 12 that they’ll limit access to flights between Turkey and Minsk to stem the flow of migrants from the Middle East.

A significant proportion of migrants heading through Belarus to the EU are Iraqis. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on November 12 announced the withdrawal of the work permit of the Belarusian consul in Baghdad and said the Iraqi embassies in Moscow and Warsaw were coordinating efforts for the voluntary return of Iraqis stranded on the border.

The Foreign Ministry also said Iraq has stopped direct flights between Iraq and Belarus, according to a statement quoted by the Iraqi News Agency.

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