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Re: [Eurasia] Fwd: [OS] BELARUS/ITALY - Italy's Berlusconi visit ends Belarus isolation

Released on 2012-03-02 13:00 GMT

Email-ID 5522604
Date 2009-11-30 20:26:31
italy is becoming a Russia-annex ;)

Matthew Powers wrote:

Berlusconi's quotes at the beginning of the article are great. Italy
has been very active lately in FSU, seems like they are making a big
push to increase their presence there.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "Matthew Powers"
To: "os"
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 1:23:11 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Subject: [OS] BELARUS/ITALY - Italy's Berlusconi visit ends Belarus

Italy's Berlusconi visit ends Belarus isolation

By Olga Nedbayeva (AFP) - 35 minutes ago 11-30-09

MINSK - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described Belarus
strongman Alexander Lukashenko as 'loved' by his people Monday as he
became the first Western leader to visit the reclusive state in 15

Belarussians "love you, which is shown by the elections," Berlusconi
told President Lukashenko, who is often accused of human rights abuses
and election rigging, in a declaration after talks on Monday.

In turn, Lukashenko praised Berlusconi, currently battling accusations
of links with the mafia and mired in sex scandals, as "a global,
planetary man of politics, our friend."

Berlusconi's day-long visit to the former Soviet republic brought to an
end the diplomatic isolation imposed on Belarus by the West over its
multiple abuses of human rights after Lukashenko came to power in 1994.

Lukashenko acknowledged the significance of the visit, telling
Berlusconi that, "We consider your visit not only in the context of
bilateral relations but also as eloquent support of our country on the
international scene."

The visit focused on strengthening business ties.

"Our relations are not what they could be.There is potential,"
Berlusconi said, adding that Italy is in 15th place among foreign
investors in Belarus.

"Berlusconi has unique personal contacts that contribute to the
development of geopolitical contacts. He visits Russia and the Arab
world," Lukashenko's spokesman Pavel Lyogky told journalists before the

The visit saw the signing of a draft agreement between Italian
engineering group Finmeccanica and the Belarussian government. The
leaders also agreed on the creation of a joint industrial zone in the
town of Brest.

In a diplomatic move, Lukashenko handed over KGB archives on Italian
prisoners of war who were captured in Belarus.

Last year the European Union softened its stance on Belarus and lifted a
travel ban on Lukashenko and other Belarussian officials, in what was
seen as a new strategy of engagement with the country.

Berlusconi's visit came in response to Lukashenko's visit to Rome in
April. The Italian premier said then that the time had come for Belarus
to emerge from its isolation.

Lukashenko has previously received political leaders with an
anti-Western stance such as Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi,
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Belarussian leader was elected with a huge majority, but has a
record of jailing opposition politicians, imposing severe restrictions
on rallies and blocking any criticism in the state-controlled media.

Belarussian opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko, head of the United Civil
Party of Belarus, expressed doubts that the visit would promote
democratic values in Belarus.

"Berlusconi is a colourful politician. He resembles Lukashenko, he has a
spirit of political adventure," Lebedko told AFP.

"He is coming to Belarus as a businessman. For him, everything is for
sale at a price, even if this requires him to sacrifice European

Belarus is the only country in the European continent not to be part of
the Council of Europe, after it was booted out in 1997 over multiple

It is a member of the EU's newly-formed Eastern Partnership programme,
which is intended to regulate relations between the European Union and
former Soviet states.

The detente in EU-Belarussian ties comes as Belarus has regularly
quarrelled with its traditional ally, Russia, in recent years, and
Lukashenko has exchanged cutting remarks with Russian leaders.

Matthew Powers

Lauren Goodrich
Director of Analysis
Senior Eurasia Analyst
T: 512.744.4311
F: 512.744.4334