Towards fruitful co-operation without any serious barriers

President of Belarus believes CIS is important venue for discussion of common issues
By Denis Kirillov

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko attaches great importance to the continuation of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ existence and development. In an interview with Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company on October 4th, he answered over a dozen questions on various aspects of domestic and foreign policy, participation in integration associations, and relations with Russia, the CIS and the European Union, alongside some personal issues.

Regarding the role of the CIS for the past 20 years, Mr. Lukashenko said, “First of all, it’s too our credit that, after the collapse of the USSR, we did not disband; we understood the world situation and decided what we should do next.” He views the CIS as the foundation on which former Soviet Union states have created close integration structures. “The Union of Belarus and Russian appeared first, and we found it necessary to move to a second stage: the creation of the Union State. The Eurasian Economic Community followed, on the basis of which the integrated economic-based CES has developed intensively in recent years. This is primarily due to the position of the Russian Federation. The CSTO is a military-political coalition,” explained Mr. Lukashenko. “The CIS has retained a platform for discussing serious political issues of mutual interest, which I would define as its role and function. Its value is very great.”

As to whether Belarus will encourage the return of Georgia to the CIS, at least as an associate member, he noted, “Your question is pertinent, as I’m an active supporter of this move. As for my impression of the Georgian elections, I didn’t expect such behaviour from Mr. Saakashvili; he simply surpassed himself. He did well to graciously admit defeat when, until the last minute, he had been certain of one hundred percent support from the voters. That’s worth a lot and has been appreciated by everyone: Russians, Georgians and outside observers.”

“We enjoy good economic relations with Georgia, as we do with the Russian Federation (although not on a comparable scale). We also have some political contacts, despite supporting the Russian Federation in all conflicts,” Mr. Lukashenko continued. “We are grateful for these political contacts, and all the Georgian politicians, who have supported us in the international arena — in the Eastern Partnership initiative, the UN, before the Americans and the Europeans. Truly, Mr. Saakashvili has always guided Belarusian politics, for which I am grateful; I have not once previously spoken of this in public.”

“Facts are facts. We saw virtually equilibrium slightly in favour of the Georgian Dream — Ivanishvili’s bloc. I heard his interview today and I don’t think he said anything new compared to Mr. Saakashvili, although he seems to prefer orientation towards Euro-Atlantic structures. He said that his first official visit would be to Washington after the elections,” noted the head of state. “Everyone says that he is a Russian protйgй but it’s not so. To my mind, he is a strong pro-Georgian politician who will protect Georgia’s interests. These currently lie in the direction of the Russian Federation, as he admits, so these will remain. We should normalise relations with the Russian Federation.”

“I’m certain that it will be so, since the Russian government is well aware that the Georgians are not strangers. Yes, there was conflict, which is bad for fraternal peoples. However, one day, this page should be turned. You can’t avoid it. I believe that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev understand this well, even though they were participants in this conflict. I’m almost sure that, if Georgia takes steps towards Russia, it will be well received. Next year, probably, we’ll see relations normalise between two brotherly countries,” said Mr. Lukashenko.

“As for the policy of Georgia in the former Soviet space in general, I think that, next year, the CIS summit is likely to be held in Minsk. Therefore, I will do my best to encourage the return of Georgia to the CIS; this will be my mission (if Minsk hosts the summit),” said the President.

“It’s a small burden for Georgian politicians. I’m convinced that even if Saakashvili’ stayed, his party would win — he is not going anywhere, he is still the President. Even if his party won, I believe that Georgia would be a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States next year. I’m convinced of this. Belarus will work in this direction. We should not lose Georgia,” said Mr. Lukashenko.

Speaking of the benefits of integration within the Common Economic Space for ‘troika’, the President stressed the orientation of the Belarusian economy towards exports. “Where barriers were created regarding the supply of products, as happened with Russia, serious significant damage was caused to our economy. There have been positive factors though, since we have sought new markets, and found them.”

“Of course, we don’t want to lose our traditional markets — like Russia. These barriers hurt our economy greatly but, these days, we are generally free of them,” noted the head of state. “It sometimes happens that someone seeks to gain, creating new rules. Meanwhile, we face Russia’s accession to the WTO. We may be yet to realise all the related problems but they can be solved. Sooner or later, we’ll solve everything. However, these barriers are gone. We enjoy freedom of trade, with new enterprises appearing. The economy is starting to work as a single state, which is worth a great deal. Belarus benefits from this, as well as Russia and Kazakhstan,” said the President of Belarus.
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