The United States and Belarus plan to begin exchanging ambassadors again after a 12-year gap in the latest sign of warming relations between the two countries.
The Trump administration is likely to appoint a veteran diplomat as U.S. ambassador to Belarus an experienced career foreign service officer, Julie Fisher, Foreign Policy reports. Fisher currently serves as deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Europe and the EU.
She previously worked as deputy permanent representative of the U.S. mission to NATO and has been assigned to the U.S. embassies in Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia. The U.S. president and the Senate should confirm Fisher’s nomination to become the first in more than a decade ambassador to Belarus.
Belarus, for its part, is ready to appoint its ambassador to the United States in the coming months, Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei told journalists on Tuesday, 4 February.
“We can send our representative in the near future. The near future means several months, taking into account all the necessary protocol requirements, technicalities and so on,” the Belarusian minister said.
The candidacy of the Belarusian ambassador, as well as the possible expansion of Belarus’ diplomatic presence, is under discussion. The official also noted that Belarus has not yet received a request from the American side to send their official representative to Minsk.
Recall that on Saturday, Mike Pompeo became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Belarus in over 25 years. During a press conference with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Pompeo said that the U.S. was ready to provide the country with “100% of the oil you need at competitive prices”.
He also touted the importance of deploying a U.S. ambassador to Minsk. “I hope it happens quickly … I think it’s something that we could likely see in the not-too-distant future,” he said.
The cap on the U.S. diplomats in Minsk dates back to 2008 when Belarus expelled the U.S. ambassador retaliating for the sanctions Washington had imposed for poor human rights record and untransparent elections.
Minsk withdrew its ambassador and staff accordingly. Between 2008 and 2018 the quota was gradually expanded from 5 to 10 diplomats as relations between the USA and Belarus got unfrozen.
The embassies in Minsk and Washington are still headed by charge d’affaires. The normal size of a U.S. embassy in a country like Belarus is about 30 diplomats plus local staff.