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Cablegate: Ukraine: Renewed Thoughts of Engaging Belarus

VZCZCXRO8635
PP RUEHBW
DE RUEHKV #0955 1411403
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201403Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5625
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 000955

SIPDIS

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/UMB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2018
TAGS: PHUM PREL PBTS PINR BO UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: RENEWED THOUGHTS OF ENGAGING BELARUS

REF: A. 07 KYIV 654 B. 07 KYIV 478

Classified ...


C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 000955 SIPDIS DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/UMB E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2018 TAGS: PHUM PREL PBTS PINR BO UP
1. (C) Summary: Ambassador strongly discouraged Ukrainian plans for an "informal" meeting between Ukrainian President Yushchenko and Belarusan President Lukashenko in meetings with Foreign Minister Ohryzko on May 18 and Presidential foreign policy advisor Oleksandr Chaliy on May 20. Ambassador stressed that any benefit to Ukraine would be far out-shadowed by the legitimacy that Lukashenko would gain by meeting with Yushchenko, whom the world recognized for bringing democratic reforms to Ukraine. He also warned that the U.S. would publicly condemn such a meeting if it were to occur in either capital. This latest attempt reprises an earlier one, also spearheaded by Chaliy and accompanied by similar arguments, just over a year ago (reftels).
2. (C) Comment: We recommend that the Department seek to have the EU and EU member states also weigh in on this issue, especially since our interlocutors have stressed their desire to be consistent with the broader European approach toward Belarus. End summary/comment.
3. (SBU) On May 18, Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko told Ambassador that the meeting between the Ukrainian and Belarusan presidents had not yet been scheduled, but, once scheduled, it would not be held in either capital. The meeting would also not be official. Yushchenko planned to press Lukashenko for progress on democratic reforms and bilateral issues. On the democracy front, Yushchenko would demand the release of political prisoners and review other areas where Belarus had failed to meet democratic standards. On bilateral issues, Ohryzko noted to Ambassador that the two countries needed to resolve long-standing problems regarding their common border.
4. (C) Presidential Secretariat Deputy Head for Foreign Policy Oleksandr Chaliy told Ambassador May 20 that only a one-on-one meeting between the two presidents held any promise of breakthroughs on bilateral issues important to Ukraine. Discussions at the ministerial level had stalled. Chaliy amplified that Yushchenko would demand the release of political prisoners, especially of former presidential candidate and Belarusan Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin, and improvements in the treatment of the Polish ethnic minority in Belarus. The reforms, however, would not be set as preconditions for a meeting, which Lukashenko was insisting should be an official one. The meeting venue had not been set, but could occur at Yushchenko's dacha in the Carpathians or at the Ukrainian border city of Chernihiv.
5. (C) Immediately after any meeting, Chaliy elaborated, Yushchenko would hold a press conference to urge the release of political prisoners and to criticize conditions in Belarus. During Yushchenko's telephone conversation with Lukashenko, in fact, Yushchenko had raised reforms and progress on bilateral issues, and Lukashenko had expressed his willingness to discuss the topics. Yushchenko was seeking the advice of his Lithuanian counterpart, Valdas Adamkus, and his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski.
6. (SBU) In both conversations, Ambassador argued strongly against the proposal, noting that Lukashenko found himself increasingly isolated and that such a meeting would occur at a particularly bad time, with recent Belarusan steps to force U.S. diplomats from Minsk. Any meeting, in any location, would only serve to confer legitimacy on Lukashenko, and the U.S. would speak out publicly if a meeting were to occur in either capital.
7. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev
Taylor

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