The United States has stopped joining the United Kingdom and Canada in imposing sanctions on Belarus because EU countries are trying to deal with internal controversy over how to enforce fines.
Three sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Washington had avoided imposing sanctions because it believed the EU could reach a consensus at Thursday’s European Council meeting.
The leader of Belarus’ main opposition leader, the exiled Lithuanian leader Gitanos Nausseda, said he expected the meeting to be “a key point in the decision on sanctions against Belarusian authorities.”
The European Union (EU) has vowed to impose sanctions on Belarus for rigging the August 9 election and subsequent human rights abuses, but Cyprus, one of its smallest members, has been proven to be a deterrent.
Cyprus has said it will not agree to Belarusian sanctions if the European Union does not impose sanctions on Turkey, as there is a separate dispute over Turkey’s drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
Six sources told Reuters last week that the UK, Canada and the US were planning to impose sanctions on individual Belarusians as a consolidated source, but only London and Ottawa did.
A source in Washington, DC, who was well aware of the matter, told Reuters that a US package, including human rights sanctions, was being prepared, but the timing of the announcement was uncertain.
The ban is a response to the controversial election, which the opposition said was stolen and to treat protesters in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled for 26 years.
The best basketball player was arrested
More than 12,000 people have been arrested since Lukashenko was declared the landslide winner of the election for denying election fraud. Major opposition figures have been jailed or deported.
Among those arrested was Belarus’ best female basketball player, Elena Liuchanka, who was detained at the airport on Wednesday and jailed for 15 days for protests against Lukashenko, AFP news agency reported.
Two-time Olympian Liu Chunka was detained at the Minsk airport as he prepared to leave the country for treatment abroad.
Meanwhile, Cyprus sources said that there was a “political agreement” on Turkish sanctions at an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin in August, and that Cyprus was ready to implement it, although the source was unclear.
“This is not a question of softening or hardening the situation in (Cyprus),” the source told Reuters.
The German Foreign Ministry said the ministers agreed on “unity with Greece and Cyprus,” but stressed that constructive talks with Turkey were crucial to resolving “disputed issues in the eastern Mediterranean.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that she would hold talks with Belarusian main opposition leader Svetlana Dikanovskaya, just days after French President Emmanuel Macron promised to help mediate the Belarusian crisis.
Addressing the German parliament, Merkel praised the “courage” of the women who led the protests.