EU Eyes Sanctions On Key Belarus Sectors Over ‘Hijacking’

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday that proposals were “on the table” to target key sectors of the Belarusian economy over the forced landing of a passenger jet.

The 27-nation bloc is readying its response after leaders gave the go-ahead for broader sanctions against the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday.

“Some ideas were put on the table but for sure nothing has been decided,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Lisbon.

“While these ideas certainly will affect economic sectors, there are not so many economic sectors that can be affected because the exports of Belarus are very much concentrated in some fields,” Borrell said.

Earlier Borrell had mooted targeting the potash fertiliser sector or refusing gas being delivered to the bloc via Belarus over the “hijacking” of the plane by the regime.

“We really have to take measures that Lukashenko will feel,” Borrell told AFP.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas also raised the possibility of hitting key firms in the fertiliser sector and said the EU could curb the Belarusian government’s ability to issue bonds in Europe.

He played down the likelihood of the bloc agreeing quickly to reject gas transiting through pipelines in Belarus, insisting it was “more of a medium and long-term issue”.

“We have now reached the point where the behaviour we have seen in Belarus, which we have seen from Lukashenko, which has terrorist characteristics, is so unacceptable that we can no longer rule out anything,” Maas said.

Lukashenko sparked international outrage by dispatching a fighter jet Sunday to intercept a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying dissident reporter Roman Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

EU leaders hit back at Minsk, agreeing to ban Belarusian airlines from the bloc and urging EU-based carriers not to fly over its airspace.

Borrell said he was inviting Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to talk to EU foreign ministers at their next meeting in June.

AFP

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