Macron Calls For OSCE Mediation On Belarus Ahead Of Meeting With Tsikhanouskaya
French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Lithuania on September 29 in a show of support for the opposition and to start a push for mediation.
Macron confirmed he will meet Tsikhanouskaya in the morning during a three-day visit to Lithuania and Latvia.
Tsikhanouskaya said she requested the meeting and called on Macron to help mediate in the crisis.
“The protests are not going to stop,” the 38-year-old said in an interview with AFP, adding that Belarus “badly needs” a dialogue between government and opposition in order to ensure there is “no more blood.”
Macron, speaking in Vilnius on September 28, insisted that Europe should cooperate with Russia to build peace in Europe.
“The way we see things is that if we want to build peace on the European continent, we need to work with Russia,” Macron said in a news conference.
“I say this on a soil which has lived through the worst, which has endured oppression, which has endured deaths. But we can’t do as if Europe was an island far away from Russia,” Macron added.
He called for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to handle mediation on Belarus and vowed that Paris “will do everything it can to ensure this mediation comes into being.”
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had expressed his agreement and support for the initiative.
Over the past year, Macron has tried to reduce distrust between Russia and the West. But the efforts have upset other EU governments, particularly those that escaped Moscow’s orbit after the Cold War. They say little has changed to merit a thaw in relations.
Other European Union leaders have called on Macron to review his stance toward Moscow since the poisoning of Aleksei Navalny, a longtime critic of Putin.
Navalny’s allies alleged that Kremlin agents poisoned him after doctors found traces of a military-grade nerve agent in his body. The Russian government denies the accusation but has resisted pressure to launch a criminal investigation.
Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania amid a crackdown on protesters by long-ruling strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has refused to admit defeat in the August 9 presidential election. Lukashenka had himself secretly sworn in on September 23, sparking outrage at home and abroad.
Western states have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have called on him to peacefully transfer power.
Opposition leaders, including Tsikahnouskaya, have formed a Coordination Council to facilitate the transfer of power.
The opposition, which claims Tsikahnouskaya won the election, has held mass protests daily since the election, and on September 27 more than 350 people were detained, bringing the total number of arrests over the weekend to about 500.
Ahead of his arrival in Vilnius, Macron said it was clear that Lukashenka “has to go” after 26 years in power. Macron also said he was impressed with the courage of the protesters.