L-R: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus opposition leader; Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's Prime Minister; Credit: SIP / Luc Deflorenne

On Sunday 20 and Monday 21 June 2021, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, met Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a human rights activist and politician who ran in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate, first met with Minister Jean Asselborn for a bilateral interview at Senningen Castle. They discussed in-depth the situation in Belarus, particularly in the context of the continued repression of the civilian population and the hijacking of flight FR4978 in Minsk.

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister stressed that Luxembourg does not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as the legitimate President of Belarus, noting: "Only free and fair elections will make it possible to get out of the current crisis".

Minister Jean Asselborn also inquired about Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's vision on the political future in Belarus. Discussions also touched on the restrictive measures taken by the European Union (EU) against the Belarusian regime.

During her working visit, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met informally with other EU Foreign Ministers as part of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which took place in Luxembourg on Monday.

The formal session of the Foreign Affairs Council then began with an in-depth discussion of the latest developments in Belarus and the restrictive measures to be taken against the Belarusian regime. The Foreign Ministers adopted the fourth package of sanctions against the Lukashenko regime, which Minister Jean Asselborn welcomed. Regarding additional measures targeting certain sectors of the Belarusian economy, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister supported the proposal to target seven sectors.

The ministers discussed the EU Comprehensive Plan of Economic Support to democratic Belarus, presented by the European Commission on 27 May 2021 and which puts into perspective a significant investment programme for the people of Belarus. This support plan will be implemented as soon as a democratic transition is initiated in the country.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel later received the Belarusian opposition leader for an interview at the Ministry of State. The Prime Minister commented afterwards: “The exchange with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya regarding the most recent developments in Belarus was invaluable”. He added: “Luxembourg wishes to express its full solidarity with the people of Belarus".

Later during the Foreign Affairs Council, Minister Jean Asselborn and his European counterparts discussed the political and security situation in Iraq. They also had the opportunity to meet with their Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, during an informal working lunch. In a joint intervention, the Benelux countries reiterated their support for the sovereignty, security, reconstruction and stability of Iraq. The ministers also discussed the upcoming Iraqi elections and encouraged the Iraqi authorities to work for the holding of free and fair elections. Finally, they raised the issue of reforms, particularly in the areas of human rights and the fight against corruption and impunity.

The meeting was also an opportunity for EU Foreign Ministers to have a strategic discussion on Latin America and the Caribbean. The ministers discussed how to strengthen relations and cooperation between the EU and these countries, including in the areas of trade, human rights and rule of law. 

In the afternoon, the ministers addressed several topical international issues, including the peace process in the Middle East, the Sahel and Ethiopia. Minister Jean Asselborn reported to his European colleagues on his recent visit to Egypt and Jordan. He shared the lessons he learned from these talks in Cairo and Amman about the regional political situation and the prospects for resuming diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the two-state solution.