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Cablegate: Belarus: Demarche to Eu Members On Sanctions

VZCZCXRO6213
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHC #2644/01 3061346
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021325Z NOV 09
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV IMMEDIATE 2217
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE 4946
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS IMMEDIATE 2809
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 112644

SIPDIS
EMBASSIES KYIV AND VILNIUS: FOR EMBASSY MINSK

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2019
TAGS: BO PREL EUN PHUM
SUBJECT: BELARUS: DEMARCHE TO EU MEMBERS ON SANCTIONS
POLICY

Classified By...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 112644 SIPDIS EMBASSIES KYIV AND VILNIUS: FOR EMBASSY MINSK E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2019 TAGS: BO PREL EUN PHUM

BELARUS: DEMARCHE TO EU MEMBERS ON SANCTIONS POLICY

Classified By: Acting A/S Nancy McEldowney. Reasons: 1.4(b,d).
1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 3 and 4.
2. (C) Background: The EU's suspension of travel sanctions on Belarusian officials will expire December 15. EU members will hold a meeting on the sidelines of the European Commission's November 16-17 General Affairs and External Relations Committee (GAERC) meeting to discuss its Belarus policy and its travel sanctions (travel restrictions) suspension on Belarus. Although the most recent signals are that the EU will decide to continue its suspension of sanctions, we cannot rule out a push within the EU to lift the travel sanctions in their entirety. We do not believe the GOB has taken the steps on reform -- per the EU's own stated criteria -- that would warrant the EU lifting sanctions. A separate but related issue is the EU's extension of the mandate for the travel sanctions, which would otherwise expire March 2010. We understand that some countries support the extension of the travel sanctions suspension, but not the extension of the mandate. This approach could lead to the expiration of the sanctions (de facto lifting of sanctions) becoming a fait acccompli next March. A dual track approach -- what European supporters may call a "double rollover" -- of extending the travel sanctions suspension along with the mandate would prevent this. This would be our preferred outcome. We believe that Italy, Germany, and perhaps Spain are the "softest" on support to continue sanctions, while the Dutch and British are closest to our views.

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3. (SBU) Posts are requested to draw from the points below in approaching appropriate host country officials as soon as possible, given the EU's ongoing discussions on Belarus in advance of its November GAERC meeting. "If Raised" points can be delivered in response to appropriate host country statements on our message. Begin points: - Both the United States and the European Union are facing reviews of our sanctions against Belarus, and we thought it appropriate to brief you on our thinking, and to exchange views. - The Obama Administration continues to be willing to explore possibilities for improving relations with the Government of Belarus (GOB), and we have made the effort to engage the Belarusian government. Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon visited Minsk in August to offer improved relations with Belarus if reforms were re-started and progress made. Both Presidential Chief of Staff Vladimir Makey and Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov said Belarus wanted better relations with the West and that the GOB would pursue internal reform. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Russell reiterated A/S Gordon's message to FM Martynov on the sidelines of UNGA in September and our Charge d'Affaires in Minsk has also regularly engaged the Presidential Administration on a way forward. All we have heard is vague GOB rhetoric about a willingness to reform and not any specific commitments of such. - We had hoped for further progress from the Government of Belarus on reform. Unfortunately, we have not seen any significant steps to improve Belarus' record on human rights and democracy since the limited reforms at the end of 2008, including the release of political prisoners, the distribution of two independent newspapers, and the registration of a leading NGO. Continued pressure against civil society, including arbitrary harassment of independent activists and denials of registration for NGOs -- none of which have been registered since 2008, and recent dispersals of monthly "Solidarity Day" demonstrations on the 16th of September and October are clearly not signs of forward movement on reform. As Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said during a visit to Minsk earlier this year, the reform process in Belarus has stalled. - We do not believe the GOB has earned additional positive action on sanctions on our part. The status quo on reform in Belarus should be met by status quo on our sanctions. STATE 00112644 002 OF 002 We believe the United States and the EU should send a consistent message to the GOB that sanctions relief can only come with fundamental changes in the GOB's approach on human rights and democracy. - Therefore, the United States expects to renew a suspension of our sanctions on two subsidiaries of Lukashenka-controlled petro-chemical conglomerate Belneftekhim -- Polotsk Steklovolokno and Lakokraska -- which expire November 30. We will otherwise continue to stay the application of our sanctions on Belneftekhim and its other majority-owned subsidiaries. Our visa sanctions on certain Belarusian officials continue to remain in place. - We believe close coordination between the United States and the EU on our sanctions policies is essential, and amplifies their effect. We have seen clear results, notably the release of Belarus' last three political prisoners in August 2008. A significant divergence in our sanctions policies would not help achieve our shared goal of advancing the respect of the basic rights and democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people. - We would hope that our sanctions policies will remain in sync after the EU's upcoming consideration of the applicable period of its travel restrictions as well as the temporary suspension of these restrictions on Lukashenka and other GOB officials. Again, we believe it is important for the GOB to know that sanctions relief is ultimately in its hands and would come only with concrete improvements on the ground in Belarus. There remains tremendous uncertainty as to the GOB's intentions on internal reform. We can better advance our shared human rights and democracy objectives in Belarus by retaining a full range of pressure points and incentives. - Lukashenka's recent announcement that electoral reform may be forthcoming ahead of local elections in spring 2010 and presidential elections in early 2011 is promising. It would be a good sign if the GOB enacts reforms that improve the environment for elections. However, the real benchmark here must be genuine good conduct of election campaigns and the elections themselves. - At the same time, the United States and the EU need to urge the GOB to continue on a path of reform, rather than halting steps, to address other areas of concern, including but not limited to media freedom, registration of NGOs, and arbitrary detention and intimidation of independent activists. - The United States remains open to a better relationship with Belarus on the basis of the GOB's respect for the basic rights of its people. We will continue our engagement with the GOB toward this end. As the GOB takes steps in the right direction, the United States will recalibrate our policy toward Belarus and coordinate with the EU in doing so. - (IF RAISED: "We need to be mindful of the Russia angle. Belarus is using a coy approach with us to leverage better deals with Russia, on gas/oil and other trade issues.") The GOB's respect for the Belarusian people's basic rights has no bearing on its foreign policy approach -- the GOB can respect its people's rights and still choose to have a good relationship with Russia. We also must not let the GOB play us off against Russia. The GOB needs to know that it is more important for Belarus to have better relations with us than it is for us to have better relations with Belarus. Belarus' dependence on a volatile Russian market means its economic growth opportunities lie to the West (according to GOB statistics, the EU as a whole is already Belarus' biggest export market). It is up to the GOB to decide whether to avail Belarus of those opportunities by taking the right steps to improve its relationship with the West -- or remain dependent on Russia. End points.
4. (U) Posts are requested to inform the Department of any substantive response. The Department's points of contact are EUR/UMB Belarus Desk Officer Joe Wang and EUR/ERA Political Officer Rachel Wolfe. Please feel free to contact POCs with questions. 5. (U) The Department appreciates Posts' assistance. CLINTON

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