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Cablegate: Latvia Supports Status Quo On Belarus Travel Restrictions,

VZCZCXRO1103
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHRA #0541 3101136
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061136Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6126
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS RIGA 000541

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PREL EUN BO LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA SUPPORTS STATUS QUO ON BELARUS TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS,
BUT SEEKS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC TIES

REF: A. SECSTATE 112644

1. (SBU) Latvia supports the status quo of sanctions against Belarus
and will back the EU position of a further one year suspension of
travel restrictions at the next GAERC meeting on November 16.
Nonetheless, Latvia is looking to build a stronger economic
relationship with Belarus, as evidenced by FM Riekstins' visit to
Minsk on November 4 and a Riga municipal government trade delegation
last month.

Initial Readout of FM Trip to Minsk
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins' November 4 trip to Minsk
was a success, according a preliminary readout from the Head of the
East Europe and Central Asia Division of the Latvian MFA, Liga
Andersone. The top two priorities were economic cooperation and
travel restrictions. Andersone said Latvia expects to sign an
agreement next month with Belarus on allowing limited cross-border
travel within 50 kilometers of the border, effectively reinstating
travel rights suspended upon Latvia's entry into the Schengen zone.
Latvia has already held consultations on this issue with the EC and
Andersone said improvement of people-to-people exchanges is
important for economic development, especially in these difficult
economic times.

3. (SBU) Belarus FM Martynov reportedly told Riekstins that Belarus
is grateful for EU financial assistance, but lamented the slow pace
of distribution. Martynov also noted that he is confident the EU
will work to simplify its visa regime with Belarus to be more
consistent with the EU visa policies for Ukraine, Russia, and
Moldova. Andersone said that simplification of the visa regime
would be positive despite the fact that Lukashenko's government
would use the agreement for internal political benefit in advance of
next year's elections. Finally, Lukashenko asked Latvia to empathize
with its difficult decision not to recognize South Ossetia and
Abkhazia and the pressure it is under from Russia to do so.

4. (SBU) Comment: Latvian Undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs and
Economic Relations, Maija Manika, told Post in a separate meeting
with a visiting Treasury Department delegation that U.S. economic
sanctions against Belarus are having a direct negative impact on the
Latvian economy. Based on Manika's statements and Latvia's efforts
to strengthen its economic ties as listed above, it appears that
Latvia would welcome a softening of U.S. economic sanctions against
Belarus.
#GARBER

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