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Cablegate: Polish Mfa: Continue Dialogue with Belarus After

VZCZCXRO5039
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHWR #1147/01 2741451
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301451Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7093

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WARSAW 001147

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EUR/CE FOR MORRIS, PIERANGELO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV BO PL
SUBJECT: POLISH MFA: CONTINUE DIALOGUE WITH BELARUS AFTER
DISAPPOINTING ELECTIONS

REF: WARSAW 01074

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. A Polish MFA official told us that the
GoP agrees with the U.S. and OSCE assessment that the
September 28 parliamentary elections in Belarus were neither
free nor fair. The MFA saw some "minor improvements" in the
election process and will seek to continue a dialogue with
Belarus on issues such as freedom of the media and the fate
of the Polish Union in Belarus. The official conceded,
however, that now is not the time to relax EU sanctions or to
lift the EU visa ban on designated Belarusian officials. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Polish MFA Deputy Director for Eastern Policy (and
former Polish Ambassador to Belarus) Mateusz Maszkiewicz told
us on September 30 that Poland's position on the Belarusian
parliamentary election conformed with that of the United
States and the OSCE. Despite some minor improvements, the
elections were "not free, not fair, and not democratic."
Maszkiewicz lamented that Lukashenka had failed to capitalize
on a golden opportunity to improve his image in the West.

Theories of Panic Ballot Stuffing and Russian Intrigues

3. (SBU) Maszkiewicz said the Polish Embassy in Minsk had
heard from unspecified Belarusian authorities that local
election officials realized on the afternoon of September 28
that they were not going to have enough votes to reach the 50
percent threshhold level required to validate the election
results. In a panic, they allegedly proceeded to increase
the number of ballots in favor of Lukashenka's candidates.
Maszkiewicz said the Embassy had also heard rumors from other
sources in Belarus that Russian intelligence organizations
rigged the results of the election in order to isolate
Lukashenka from the West.

Lukashenka Running Out of Options

4. (SBU) Maszkiewicz told us that Lukashenka will probably
continue to look to the West as a means to counterbalance
Moscow in an attempt to maintain at least some independence.
Lukashenka's options, according to Maszkiewicz, are quickly
narrowing. Lukashenka has failed in his efforts to interest
China and Iran in investing in or deepening economic
relations with Belarus. A once promising relationship with
Venezuela is also on the decline because Chavez has shifted
his focus to Moscow.

5. (SBU) Maszkiewicz speculated that Russia will probably
gain some concessions from Minsk when Prime Minister Putin
visits Belarus in early October. According to Maszkiewicz,
Belarus and Russia will probably agree to a joint air space
command, despite the fact that Lukashenka sees it as a threat
to his authority. Regarding Georgia, Maszkiewicz indicated
that Lukashenka has little room to maneuver on the
recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and will probably
cave in to Moscow's demands.

Poland's Stance After Belarusian Elections: Continue the
Dialogue

6. (SBU) Maszkiewicz indicated that Poland will continue its
dialogue with Belarus -- including mid-level government
officials, members of the opposition, and civil society
groups -- although it will be difficult to provide the GoB
meaningful incentives for change in light of the election
results. He added that it is important to build strong
democratic institutions in Belarus that will outlast the
current presidency. As a result, Poland is seeking
instruments to push ahead with such an agenda.

7. (SBU) In the near term, Poland will focus on resolving the
status of the Polish Union in Belarus and easing Belarusian
restrictions on the media. Maszkiewicz emphatically denied
recent press reports that the MFA is seeking to remove
Andrzelika Borys -- with whom Maszkiewicz has a personal
relationship -- from the leadership of the Polish Union in
Belarus. Maszkiewicz said that he would not allow such a
plan to go forward. Instead, the MFA is seeking to get the
Union's two splinter groups -- one of which is backed by the
Belarusian government -- to find ways to work together.
Maszkiewicz complained that Prime Minister Donald Tusk was
too quick to meet with Borys after the media claimed the MFA
was seeking to oust her, making it appear that the government
indeed had doubted her.

8. (SBU) Maszkiewicz said Poland plans to "start a dialogue"
with Lukashenka to convince him to ease restrictions on the
activities of the media. Maszkiewicz said that it would be a

WARSAW 00001147 002 OF 002


good sign if Lukashenka were to cancel the recently enacted
media law as a concession to the West. If unsuccessful,
Masziewicz said, Poland will continue plans to "cover Belarus
with satellite and radio programming."

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Maszkiewicz's remarks generally echoed the
sentiments of the Polish press, think tanks, and other
government officials that the results of the election were
generally disappointing, but not surprising. As a result of
the election, the Polish MFA appears to have abandoned its
hope of softening the EU visa ban, at least in the short
term. However, MFA officials and the press pointed out that
a few minor improvements had been made in the Belarusian
elections--particularly in restraining police persecution of
political opponents--which they see as a sign that Lukashenka
might be willing to bend on some issues.


ASHE

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