Archive for March 24, 2012
Belarus told European Union ambassadors withdrawn by their capitals not to bother returning as the EU slapped new sanctions on Minsk to punish President Alexander Lukashenko for what they say are civil liberties abuses. Foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries imposed sanctions on a further 12 people, including businessmen and their companies, adding to existing measures that already ban some 200 people – police officers, judges and government officials – from the EU or accessing any assets there. Belarus’s message telling EU envoys to stay away, announced by the foreign ministry, increased its diplomatic isolation and marked a new low in ties with the West. The United States has not had an ambassador in Minsk since 2008 and runs an embassy on reduced staff. “In the current situation, the Belarussian side sees no need for the presence on its territory of the withdrawn ambassadors of the states that voted for this decision,” Belarussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh told reporters in advance of sanctions announcement. The EU withdrew its envoys on Feb. 28 as relations with the ex-Soviet republic continued to slide following Lukashenko’s crackdown on the opposition after his re-election for a fourth term in December 2010.
The US has apparently refused to revisit its policy on drone strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as recommended by a Pakistani Parliamentary committee. The US stand on drone strikes was conveyed by US Ambassador Cameron Munter during a meeting with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The envoy met Khar to discuss the revised terms of engagement with the US tabled in Parliament earlier. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security presented 40 recommendations to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate for revamping ties with the US. The recommendations include the imposition of a tax on all US and NATO supplies passing through Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan, an unconditional US apology for a NATO air strike that killed 24 soldiers in November and a halt to drone attacks. The US envoy told Khar that Washington is willing to tender a formal apology for the NATO air strike but ruled out the possibility of revisiting the policy of relying on unmanned aerial vehicles to pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban in the tribal belt, the report said.