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15 Aug, 2012 12:34

Moscow calms Minsk over EU’s election-monitoring ‘monopoly’

Russia will assist Belarus in providing an “objective and unbiased" assessment on upcoming parliamentary elections.
Moscow calms Minsk over EU’s election-monitoring ‘monopoly’

"I can assure you that we will do our best to give an objective and unbiased assessment on the elections in Belarus," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday in Minsk during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.The assessment should not be based on "lopsided rules…which the OSCE is trying to impose contrary to the proposals on developing commonly accepted election monitoring rules," he said.It is partially for this reason that the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) made the decision to increase the numbers of CIS observers at the presidential and parliamentary elections.In order to avoid an “OSCE monopoly” on the election-monitoring process, Lavrov argued in favor of a “collective approach,” organized under the aegis of a CIS mission, which would “have more influence on these processes inside of the European space.”"Russian citizens will take part in different missions during the parliamentary elections in Belarus [scheduled for September 23]," he said.The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] and the CIS would be among the international missions participating, Lavrov said.The OSCE realizes it is “necessary to put things in order” in the sphere of monitoring elections, Lavrov said.Meanwhile, Lukashenko admitted he had some concerns regarding the elections."Political activities are intensifying, and not always in the right direction," "There is no outburst in Belarus so far," he said, while suggesting that the West is trying to affect the election campaign.Lukashenko also questioned the competence of the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly observation mission in Belarus."They could have found a person having more knowledge about the situation in Belarus," he said, adding that Belarus is carefully monitoring the situation.Meanwhile, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov believes successful cooperation between Minsk and Moscow within the Customs Union, the Common Economic Area and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will help Belarus withstand pressure coming from the European Union."Forms of support on Russia's part are obvious to us: first of all these are our partner relations and relations within the framework of the Customs Union and the Common EconomicArea, and this is an opportunity for Belarus to successfully maintain its economic activity," Martynov said at a news conference in Minsk on Wednesday.Martynov said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and he had discussed the question of the EU's pressure on Belarus.Belarus does not accept “threats, sanctions and blackmail," rather, it is looking for constructive dialogue, he added.The European Union is Belarus's third biggest trade partner, and therefore Minsk expects more active economic relations with the EU countries, Martynov concluded.Relations between Russia and Belarus, though rocky at times, have been on the upswing recently as Moscow and Minsk strengthen mutual ties in the face of growing Western opposition. Vladimir Putin’s first international trip after being elected president in March was to Belarus. “This visit is more important than many economic agreements between Russia and Belarus. This is a signal that we have a great future,” Lukashenko said, hailing the renewed ties between the countries.