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2nd Dec 2023

Merkel and Macron offer Belarus mediation, help for Navalny

  • French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of the July summit on the EU budget and recovery fund (Photo: Council of the European Union)

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel offered EU mediation to solve the political crisis in Belarus at their meeting on Thursday (20 August) in the south of France.

Massive opposition rallies and a brutal police crackdown dominated Belarus in the last two weeks, following the 9 August re-election of president Alexander Lukashenko, which the opposition said was rigged.

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"A dialogue between the authorities, the opposition, and civil society is essential. We hope that this dialogue can be established by the Belarusians themselves," Macron said after the talks.

The EU "stands ready to help if our role in mediation can be useful and is desired by the Belarusians along with other institutions, and including Russia", the French president added.

Macron said Russia should be included in the dialogue, but he also warned Moscow against any aggressive intervention in Belarus.

Merkel said Lukashenko "has not sought to speak to any of us [EU leaders]," a day after revealing the Belarus strongman declined to accept her phonecall.

At a videoconference on Wednesday, EU leaders rejected the re-election results of Lukashenko, and said they stood by the Belarusian people if they wanted new elections.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda said in an interview that Lukashenko refuses to speak to European leaders, while Russian president Vladimir Putin is serving as a mediator in international discussions.

After the EU leaders' videoconference on Wednesday, European Council president Charles Michel on Thursday again talked to Putin.

"Yesterday, the EU 27 expressed solidarity with the people of Belarus in their desire to determine their own future. Today, I reiterated this to president Putin. There is only one way forward: through political inclusive dialogue and a peaceful and democratic process," he tweeted later.

Lukashenko was reluctant with the proposal for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to play a role in Belarus mediation, as proposed by the EU 27 leaders, Macron said on Thursday.

But Putin supported the plan, Macron added.

In Belarus, prosecutors have accused the opposition of trying to seize power and opened a criminal case against some of them, meaning opposition leaders could end up in jail.

Navalny support

Meanwhile, Merkel and Macron offered help to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is fighting for his life after drinking tea which his allies believe was poisoned.

The French and German leaders called for an investigation into what happened to the opposition leader, and anti-corruption fighter.

"What is very, very important now is that it [the hospitalisation] is urgently clarified: How did this situation come about? We will insist on that," Merkel said.

Merkel and Macron said their countries were ready to provide help in terms of healthcare or asylum to Navalny and his family.

Navalny is in a coma in a Siberian hospital, which is refusing to allow him to be moved to another better-equipped facility where he can get superior care after the suspected poisoning, his spokeswoman said on Friday.

A German air-ambulance with a team specialised in treating coma patients was due to land in Omsk later on Friday, but the hospital currently treating him is saying he is unstable and should not be moved.

Navalny's spokesperson said the ban on transporting him was a further "attempt on his life", Reuters reported.

Mediterranean

Macron and Merkel also discussed mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed Mediterranean waters.

"We, clearly, are standing together with Greece and Cyprus," Macron said, adding the two countries wanted to ensure stability for the region, "favouring de-escalation", with application of international law.

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