Czech PM holds V4 meeting with opposition leader of Belarus

PRAGUE / WARSAW (Reuters) – Czech Prime Minister Lady Bebis on Thursday moved a Polish proposal to invite Belarusian opposition leader Sivatlana Tsikansukaya to the Central European Heads’ Conference on Friday, saying such a move would be “hasty”.

Babis has repeatedly called for a new election in Belarus where protesters have sought to end President Alexander Lukashenko’s 26-year rule since a disputed election last month, and said the protest needed support .

But in comments to a Czech news agency he had sent to Reuters, Babis declined a proposal by Poland for a meeting, including the Visegrad group that also includes Hungary and Slovakia. All four nations are members of the European Union.

“I do not want to make a hasty move that would not suit the pan-European situation, give ammunition to Belarusian propaganda and eventually be counter-productive,” CTK quoted Babis as saying.

The exiled leader Tsikhanouskaya was visiting Poland this week and attended a Polish economic forum and several events in Warsaw on Wednesday with Prime Minister Metusz Moravicki.

Bubis said that Poland’s proposal only came at the “last time”. He reiterated his support for free elections in Belarus.

Polish officials told Reuters that Friday’s Visegrad group summit would nevertheless largely focus on Belarus, with the aim of coordinating a common space pressuring the European Union to do more for the country.

A spokesman for the Polish government merely stated that the pre-agreed agenda did not include a meeting with Tsikanuskaya.

In the loggerheads with Brussels over Poland’s adherence to the rule of law standards, Moravecki’s government of law and justice is keen to burn its territorial credibility.

Lukashenko denied rigging in the August 9 election, the official results of which said he won by a landslide, and took stern action against protesters demanding his resignation.

The European Union is aiming to impose economic sanctions on 31 senior Belarusian officials, Reuters reported. But a dispute in the eastern Mediterranean has delayed EU sanctions on Belarus in the August 9 election that Western powers say was rigged.

Reporting by Robert Muller at PRAGUE, Joanna Plusinska at WARSAW, Andreas Cytus at VILNIUS; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Catherine Evans