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EU to blacklist 31 Belarus officials over election but Cyprus, Greece have to consent

The European Union aims to impose economic sanctions on 31 senior Belarus officials including the country’s interior minister by mid-September, three EU diplomats said, in response to an August 9 election that the West says was rigged.

However, Greece and Cyprus – which are pushing for separate sanctions on Turkey in a dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean – still need to give their support to the Belarus blacklist, diplomats told Reuters.

All 27 EU countries must agree on such measures and Athens and Nicosia could use their support for the Belarus blacklist to obtain tough measures on Turkey, the diplomats also said.

Almost a month into mass demonstrations against the outcome of the contest, in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory to prolong his 26-year-old rule, the EU aims to punish the government crackdown and support calls for fresh elections.

“We initially agreed on 14 names but many states felt that was not sufficient. We have now reached consensus on another 17,” one EU diplomat said. “These are senior officials responsible for the election, for violence and for the crackdown.”

EU foreign ministers gave their broad political approval for the sanctions – EU travel bans and asset freezes – at a meeting in Berlin late last month but did not decide who to target.

As repression continued against the opposition on Monday, the European Commission said EU sanctions would be imposed very soon, but did not give details.

“There is the political will and determination to have (sanctions) concluded as soon as possible,” a spokesman for the EU executive told a news briefing. “It’s not a question of whether, only when.”

Names could still be added or taken off the list, but the diplomats said formal agreement is likely to come on September 21, when EU foreign ministers hold their next scheduled meeting. The sanctions coming into effect on September 22.


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