Belarus opposition leader to address French parliament

Vilnius (AFP) –


Belarus's main opposition leader on Tuesday said she would address France's parliament after talks with President Emmanuel Macron in which he promised to help mediate in the political crisis.

"We have received an invitation to speak before the French parliament and we have accepted it," Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told AFP after meeting with Macron during his visit to Lithuania.

The meeting with Macron was her most high-profile one so far since a disputed election last month in which she has claimed victory against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Tikhanovskaya has previously addressed the UN Human Rights Council and the European Parliament and has met with EU foreign ministers and the leaders of neighbouring Poland and Lithuania.

After the meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Macron said: "We will do our best as Europeans to help mediate and we will come back to OSCE mediation in order to progress".

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has offered to help broker a negotiated end to the crisis in Belarus.

"He supports the idea of mediation because he understands that powerful countries need to be involved to begin negotiations with Lukashenko. He is ready to help with this," she said.

"I think he will speak with the Russian side about Belarus and he will do everything possible to involve Russia in these negotiations."

She said the crisis should be resolved "as soon as possible" and new free and fair elections should be held before the end of the year.

Mass protests that have continued since the election have been met with a violent crackdown and Tikhanovskaya's husband Sergei is in prison accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Macron promised to "do everything he can to release all the political prisoners", she said.

"For Mr Macron this is not just a political interest, it is interest above all as a human being because our rights are being trampled, we have a dictatorship. He understands people who are fighting for their rights," she added.