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1 Feb, 2020 12:59

Pompeo vows to name US envoy to Belarus as Lukashenko praises him for RISK to visit Minsk & scrutinize country’s democracy

Pompeo vows to name US envoy to Belarus as Lukashenko praises him for RISK to visit Minsk & scrutinize country’s democracy

Mike Pompeo has tried to de-ice relations with Belarus, a country sanctioned by the US over a decade ago, promising to appoint an ambassador to Minsk along with other perks for siding with Washington.

“We are confident that together we can make real progress across every dimension of our relationship,” Pompeo told President Alexander Lukashenko as he greeted him on Saturday.

Returning the charm offensive, the Belarusian leader said it was “very good that you risked coming to Minsk after various misunderstandings between Belarus and the US.”

Lukashenko, whom Western media notoriously labeled “Europe’s last dictator,” poked fun at his reputation afterwards, saying that Pompeo would be able to see “what kind of people, what kind of dictatorship and democracy” is in Belarus, and decide “if it’s a lot or a little.”

The post-Soviet country has been at odds with Washington since 2006 when it accused Lukashenko of “human rights abuses” and oppression of opponents, as well as slapping sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals including Lukashenko himself.

Belarus reacted by recalling its ambassador to Washington and telling the US envoy to leave. Back in 2015, Minsk made a number of conciliatory moves, after which the US suspended sanctions on state-owned entities – but diplomatic ties haven’t got any better.

Now, Pompeo said naming an American ambassador is just around the corner. “I hope it happens quickly... it’s something that we could likely see in the not-too-distant future. We’ve made a lot of progress on it,” Pompeo told reporters, revealing that the US “has already doubled” the number of its diplomats in Minsk.

Pompeo became the first US secretary of state to visit Belarus in decades. He will depart Minsk for Central Asia, where he will visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in early February.

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