Latvia ready to facilitate dialogue between EU and Belarus - Rinkevics

Latvia is ready to facilitate the EU-Belarus dialogue, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (Reform Party) pointed out during a visit to Vitebsk yesterday.

Rinkevics met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey yesterday. The sides discussed the latest developments in Latvian-Belarusian cooperation, commending the positive trends of Latvian-Belarusian economic cooperation and expressing mutual interest in further enhancing this cooperation, especially, in trade, transit, transport and logistics.

Rinkevics and Makey voiced determination to strengthen contacts between Latvian and Belarusian local governments, facilitate cross-border cooperation, enhance legal frameworks, promote cultural exchange projects, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

The officials voiced readiness to make amendments to the Latvia-Belarus intergovernmental agreement on facilitating trips for border residents, thus making them easier and promoting regional cooperation, business contacts and the cultural dialogue between border regions.

Rinkevics and Makey exchanged opinions on the EU-Belarus relations. "It is important for the EU to sustain a dialogue with Belarus on the observance of fundamental freedoms and rights. Me and my colleague had an open exchange of opinions on the matter. I see an opportunity for achieving progress in this field through building a constructive dialogue between the EU and Belarus. Latvia is prepared to facilitate this dialogue," stressed Rinkevics. He also lauded Belarus' decision to renew Sweden's diplomatic representation in Minsk and voiced hope that Belarus and the European Union will also take other required steps in the near future towards improving their relations.

The intergovernmental agreement on Latvia-Belarus border regime was also signed during the visit, laying down practical aspects for the functioning of the border, including border crossing points. The agreement was signed in the presence of both ministers by Normunds Garbars, the head of the State Border Guard of Latvia, and Alexander Boechko, the chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus.

In Vitebsk, Rinkevics met with the region's Governor Alexander Kosinets, discussing possibilities for expanding cooperation between the border regions of both countries. Vitebsk has a special role in regional and cross-border cooperation as well as cultural and people-to-people contacts. The minister and the governor positively evaluated cross-border cooperation between Latvian and Belarusian local governments within the Euroregion "Country of Lakes" and expressed hope that the regional forum of local governments to be held in Daugavpils in May will give an important impulse to this cooperation.

Rinkevics acquainted himself with the work of the Latvian Consulate in Vitebsk. As of March 18, the consulate represents Poland in visa matters, making it easier for Vitebsk residents to visit Poland.

At the end of the visit, Rinkevics open an exhibition of Livonia's drawings by Johann Christoph Brotze in the Duhovskoi Kruglik gallery in the historical center of the city.