French president arrives in Lithuania

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived on an official visit to Lithuania on Monday.

The French leader is expected to pay close attention to the situation in Belarus during the first bilateral visit by a French head of state to Lithuania in nearly two decades.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya have previously called on Macron to play a mediating role in resolving the political crisis in Belarus.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro on the eve of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Lithuania, Nausėda said that Russia could also act as a mediator.

“I believe huge progress possibilities are opening up for us in response to the events in Belarus,” Nausėda said.

“I would like to urge European countries, especially France and also Russia, to act as mediators to start a peaceful dialogue between institutions of the Minsk government and civil society. We have already given a start for such measures but we would like other countries to join us,” he added.

“President Alexander Lukashenko is not yet ready for dialogue. But time is ticking and the situation might change at any moment,” he said.

Nausėda also called on the European Union to introduce sanctions for representatives of the Belarusian regime as soon as possible.

“I do hope this issue will be resolved during the upcoming [European Council] summit. We have to demonstrate solidarity to preserve Europe’s image and confidence in Europe,” the Lithuanian president said.

Nausėda also welcomed Macron’s position that the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko should step down. Meanwhile, the French president’s representatives reported that he was ready to meet with Tikhanovskaya in Vilnius.

“The French president demonstrated a clear position and principles characteristic of a leader of a democratic society” that the EU “still sometimes lack” due to failure to agree on sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime, Nausėda said.

On Tuesday, Macron will visit French troops serving within the NATO battalion in Lithuania and stationed in Rukla. Nausėda also plans to discuss Russia during the meeting with the French president.

“We have a lot to discuss. Not only the issues that we speak about in unison, but also those aspects that we need to explain to each other […] in more detail,” said Nausėda.

“I would mention among the latter the attitude towards Russia, the aspiration for Europe’s strategic autonomy, NATO’s role and prospect,” Nausėda added.

Lithuanian diplomats have previously criticised Macron’s aspiration to have a closer dialogue with Russia.


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