We have always declared that Belarus pursues a multi-vector foreign policy. It can’t be otherwise, since we are an open country located in the centre of Europe. Nor can we, due to geographical and historical peculiarities, make friends with some countries while remaining closed to others. We aren’t changing our priorities: our close relationship with Russia will remain of principal importance to us. By no means must we lose the high level of friendship between our two countries.
There’s simply no alternative to ‘normal’ Belarusian-Russian relations. Our union should be exclusively equal, mutually beneficial, understanding, fair and transparent. Partnership is not a one way street.
In the past 12–18 months, our bilateral relations with the CIS have reached a higher level. In particular, Belarus’ cooperation with Ukraine and Azerbaijan has shown promise. New agreements are currently being implemented. We are connected to the Ukrainians by centuries of common history, as well as spiritual and cultural proximity. Now, the time has come for new Belarusian-Ukrainian relations, ensuring sovereign status for our states and enhancing the geopolitical importance of the Eastern European region.
However, our desire to develop bilateral liaisons with former USSR republics does not exclude our existing integration with the CES, CIS, EurAsEC and CSTO.
Of course, we are interested in mutually beneficial relations with the European Union and the United States. Everything is ready for fully fledged dialogue. We have significant trade with Western European countries. In addition, strong ties have been established with Italy, Germany and other states in the humanitarian sphere. We are grateful to our European friends for the assistance they offer in overcoming the consequences of Chernobyl. The role our country plays in all-European processes should not be belittled. Belarus is a key state as regards the transit of resources, cargo and passengers between Europe and Russia or Asia.
We have a dialogue regarding economics, politics and the social sphere and are ready to discuss any topic — including those of acute importance.
The work of the Non-Aligned Movement deserves special attention. The summit — held in September 2006 —laid the foundation for a new-look foreign policy. Those countries wealthiest in natural resources are influential: India, Venezuela, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Oman. They are ready to cooperate with us and are already strategic partners. The agreements that we’ve concluded with their leaders are now being realised.
You may recall, when I announced our state’s new foreign political and foreign economic policies, sceptics mocked; they said that this was mere PR and served no particular purpose. However, in recent months, we’ve negotiated at top levels with half of these states. The Republic of South Africa, Venezuela, Vietnam and Malaysia remain; they’ve long been waiting for us and have invited us to visit many times. This is a real prospect for foreign politics. Those who mocked should now keep silence. These are not easy trips (you know my attitude towards western and eastern business trips abroad). They involve serious work, yielding contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Our cooperation with the People’s Republic of China is a convincing example. This is our leading ally within the international arena. The development of Belarusian-Chinese trade-economic liaisons testifies to our ability to take advantage of the promising market in China. In 2006, mutual turnover totalled almost $1 billion and far more is possible.
China holds promise for another serious reason. Our country is keen on becoming a reliable link in the European economic system — as part of the Eastern Asia-Europe transit corridor. We must understand that our multi-vector policy will only be possible if we extend our exports and join more foreign markets. This is crucial to the efficiency of Belarus’ foreign policy and further economic development. You may not realise that we rely on more than one state for our trade these days. The West occupies first place in Belarus’ trade-economic cooperation, followed by the European Union and Russia. We have purposely endeavoured not to be dependent on any single country — we’ve spoken of this openly in diversifying our foreign policy and the economy.