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U.S. Department of State
Press Statement
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 14, 2003

Lifting of Belarus Visa Restrictions

The United States Government has decided in tandem with fourteen member countries of the European Union to rescind visa restrictions relating to Belarus.

The United States has taken this step in response to Belarus cooperation in establishing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Minsk and allowing this office to carry out its mandate. We expect the Belarus authorities to continue this cooperation thereby ensuring the necessary conditions for an effective and unimpeded operation of the OSCE office.

The United States and the European Union remain seriously concerned at the continuing deterioration of democracy and respect for the rule of law in Belarus as well as its failure to fulfill international commitments. Serious violations of human rights and recurrent restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed by the Government of Belarus are in clear contradiction of internationally accepted democratic standards.

The United States and the European Union consider the flawed conduct of local elections on March 2, 2003, and the arrest and imprisonment of several participants in the recent peaceful demonstrations in Minsk as further setbacks. We have repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment of opposition politicians, journalists and intellectuals as well as to improve the media situation in Belarus and to cooperate with international organizations in accordance with their international commitments.

The United States urges Belarus to undertake a policy of political liberalization including respect for human rights and religious and media freedom. Belarus must make fundamental reforms to strengthen democratic discourse and the participation of its citizens in the political process.The United States and the European Union will work closely with the OSCE and other international partners to contribute to the development of genuine democracy and respect for human rights in Belarus. We remain committed to providing support and assistance to Belarusian civil society. Substantial progress in democratic reform and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights will be considered by the United States and the European Union as a new starting point for discussions on the improvement of its relations with Belarus.


Released on April 14, 2003