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Macron to meet opposition leader Tikhanovskaya after calls to mediate Belarusian crisis

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has called for French President Emmanuel Macron to mediate in the political crisis in her homeland, during an interview with AFP in Vilnius, Lithuania on September 28, 2020.
Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has called for French President Emmanuel Macron to mediate in the political crisis in her homeland, during an interview with AFP in Vilnius, Lithuania on September 28, 2020. © Ludovic Marin, AFP
6 min

Emmanuel Macron will meet Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Lithuania on Tuesday, the Élysée Palace said in a statement, after she asked the French president to help mediate the crisis that has gripped the country since the controversial reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko.

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Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Monday urged French President Emmanuel Macron to mediate in the political crisis in her homeland, saying he could involve Russia in opening a dialogue. 

Tikhanovskaya told AFP the EU should expand planned sanctions to include businesses that support the authoritarian government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"The protests are not going to stop," she said in an interview in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where she fled after unsuccessfully challenging Lukashenko in an August 9 election.

"People will not accept the regime under which they have lived all these years."

The French president will be Tikhanovskaya's most high-profile meeting so far since the disputed election and the weeks of unprecedented mass protests that she has helped inspire.

Tikhanovskaya calls on Macron to help start Belarus 'dialogue'
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She has previously met leaders in neighbouring Poland and Lithuania, which have taken a lead in European diplomacy on Belarus, and with EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

She said the French leader was known as a mediator in international crises who could open a dialogue between the government and the opposition, and also involve Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

"Now is the moment when Belarus needs help in starting dialogue," she said, adding that Macron could be "one of the mediators" in the crisis.

In an interview published yesterday with the Journal du dimanche (Sunday Journal), Macron said Lukashenko should agree to leave power.

“It is clear that Lukashenko must go,” he said.

>>Tens of thousands protest in Belarus despite police detentions

Russian cooperation

During a visit to Lithuania that began on Monday, Macron and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda agreed that the European Union should decide on sanctions against Belarus at the summit of the bloc's leaders later this week.

"We agreed that the European Union cannot waste time and have to do everything so that sanctions are discussed and agreed and confirmed at the next EU leaders' summit," Nauseda told reporters after talks with Macron in Vilnius. 

The EU has been considering sanctions against Lukashenko and other high-profile figures seen as responsible for a violent crackdown of months of protest in Belarus.

Speaking at a news conference, Macron insisted that Europe should also cooperate with Russia to build peace in Europe – despite calls from some of his EU peers to review his stance towards Moscow after the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

"The way we see things is that if we want to build peace on the European continent, we need to work with Russia," he said.

But Macron also called on Russia to provide more information on the Navalny case or face international consequences, without elaborating as to what those might be.

"This is very clearly a murder attempt carried out on Russian soil, against a Russian opposition leader, with a chemical agent fashioned in Russia. It is therefore up to Russia to provide clarification," Macron told reporters.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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