MINSK, 18 May (BelTA) – Belarus may withdraw its application to join the Council of Europe, Press Secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anatoly Glaz said answering a question from BelTA.
The Council of Europe Summit was held in Reykjavik on 16-17 May. The Republic of Belarus was also featured in its final declaration, although it is not a member of the organization. BelTA asked the press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to comment on the summit and its outcomes for Belarus and on accusations of the deportation of Ukrainian children.
“As you know, our interaction with this organization has come to a standstill, and this was not our fault. Yet, we were never super-anxious to join this organization. The Council of Europe has completely turned into an obedient tool for pressurizing states that are not to the liking of Washington and Brussels. This structure definitely creates confrontation and divisions instead of uniting our common European home,” Anatoly Glaz said.
According to him, this is not the same organization that Belarus wanted to join 30 years ago. The processing of the membership request filed by the Republic of Belarus was frozen by the Council of Europe back in the 1990s. Nevertheless, a lot has been done over this time to build mutually beneficial relations between Belarus and the Council of Europe, a number of mutually beneficial projects have been implemented.
“Having chosen to discriminate the Republic of Belarus and infringe on its rights, to build contacts with extremists calling for new sanctions and terrorist attacks against the population of Belarus, the Council of Europe has done everything to erode all the gains of previous years. Unfortunately, the Reykjavik summit and its final declaration are an obvious continuation of such a policy. Against the background of persistent and false accusations, the claim about Belarus' involvement in the allegedly unlawful transfers of Ukrainian children looks absolutely wild and inappropriate. In this regard, a rhetorical question arises: do European politicians pushing for the continuation of the Ukraine war put their political ambitions above the lives of tens of thousands of children and their parents who risk their lives every day and every hour in the combat zone?” Anatoly Glaz noted.
“Belarus took a clear stance on this issue a long time ago: every saved life is important for us, especially the life of a child,” the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized.
He noted that Belarus has been taking in and will continue to take in children from the countries affected by hostilities, natural and man-made disasters. Belarus hosted children from Japan after the Fukushima accident in 2011 and children from Syria during the active stage of hostilities in 2017, and so on.
Since 2016, Belarus has been accepting children from Ukraine, including from Donbass and, in particular, from Donetsk. “We continued doing this throughout 2022 and 2023. From 2013 to 2022, more than 12,000 children from 42 countries underwent recuperation and rehabilitation at the national children's education and recreation center Zubrenok alone, including at the invitation of the president of the Republic of Belarus.
These rehabilitation programs run by Belarus are in compliance with the legal procedures. All children enter and leave Belarus legally, accompanied by adults, having all the necessary documents on them. We do this openly and transparently, including in cooperation with international organizations and foundations, including UNICEF.
It should be noted that many countries of the world, including European nations, have been running recuperation and respite programs for children for many years,” Anatoly Glaz emphasized.
On behalf of Belarus, he urged all the states that signed the Reykjavik Declaration to stop instrumentalizing this matter and playing politics with recuperation of Ukrainian children.
It should be noted that not all members of the Council of Europe signed this document. “Thus, if we put aside the essence of the declaration and look at its procedural part, we will see that it is merely wishful thinking of the organizers of the summit, to put it mildly. There is an understanding that the Council of Europe is doing everything to completely discredit itself in the eyes of ordinary people, including Belarusians,” the spokesman said.
“If the Council of Europe and the West continue their destructive policy towards the Belarusian state, the Republic of Belarus will withdraw its application to join this organization and will continue to review the remaining formats of relations with the Council of Europe,” Anatoly Glaz said.