Lithuania’s view of Belarusian nuclear plant ‘not changing’ – FM Linkevičius in Minsk

Lithuniana Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius arrived in Belarus on Monday where he pressed Minsk to implement safety regulations before launching its nuclear plant in Astravyets.

Since the first reactor has already been built, it is now necessary to do everything possible to “reduce the potential damage,” Linkevičius said in the Belarusian capital on Monday.

“There are very specific recommendations from international organisations, and sustainability stress tests have been carried out – very specific recommendations, too,” the minister told reporters.

“We believe that these essential requirements should be included on a mandatory basis into the Belarusian authorities’ action plan and must be implemented before the plant is launched. This is what we seek,” he said.

According to the minister, Lithuania’s position on the nuclear power plant, located close to the countries’ shared border, remains unchanged.

“Our attitude toward this project is not changing. I have said that many times and I think our Belarusian colleagues know this very well, too,” he said.

Lithuania constantly emphasises the need for Belarus to implement the EU’s stress test recommendations and eliminate other safety issues before launching the power plant.

When asked if Belarus’ oil and, possibly, gas imports via Lithuania could help solve the Astravyets issue, Linkevicius said that the diversification of energy supplies to Belarus would be an issue on his agenda on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Linkevicius is scheduled to meet with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Rumas and his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Makei. The two foreign ministers already met on Monday.

Lithuania is the main critic of the Astravyets plant under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius, saying that the facility fails to meet international safety standards, an allegation that Minsk denies.

This is Linkevičius’ first visit to Belarus in four years. He is visiting the neighbouring country at Makei’s invitation.

The minister underlined that Lithuania will never in principle agree with the operation of this facility.

“One of those sores is that facility that is under construction close to our border, and the absence of safety guarantees, norms, standards,” Linkevičius previously told BNS on the eve of the visit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Belarus over the weekend. Linkevičius discussed the visit with Pompeo’s deputy and said the US welcomes Lithuania’s more active involvement in the dialogue with Belarus.

Linkevičius says Lithuania is interested in helping Belarus to preserve its sovereignty and look for alternative energy resources.

Amid an ongoing dispute with Russian regarding oil supply conditions, Belarus has recently bought a shipment of crude oil from Norway and brought it in via the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda with the help of Lithuania’s state-owned rail company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways).

Representatives of the Lithuanian government say Lithuania could help Belarus import gas via Klaipėda if Minsk wanted to reduce its dependence on Moscow.

Lithuanian culture centre in Belarus

The Lithuanian and Belarusian foreign ministers also discussed on Monday the future of the Lithuanian cultural center in Rymdziuny (Rimdžiūnai), a village in Belarus near the two countries’ shared border.

The kindergarten that is part of the center will not be relocated as planned earlier, Linkevičius said after the meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Makei, in the village.

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