The U.S and Belarus will restore diplomatic missions to the level of ambassadors after a 10-year break.
United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale made the statement as he met with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Tuesday, 17 September.
Сегодня проходит визит в #Беларусь заместителя Государственного секретаря Соединенных Штатов Америки по политическим вопросам Дэвида Хэйла @StateDept @USEmbBy @BelarusEmbUSA pic.twitter.com/PPgEQlcNx9
— МИД Беларуси 🇧🇾 (@BelarusMID) September 17, 2019
David Hale said: “I would like to convey greetings from the secretary of state who’s asked me to come here in order to be present at an important historical moment of our bilateral relations. After our meeting, we will make a statement that we are going to exchange ambassadors after so many years without them.
We agree with you that the state of affairs is unnatural, abnormal. We are glad that this chapter is nearly over. We are closing this chapter due to the steps your country and you personally have made. We would also like to note the vision you’ve accepted – greater diversity in internal affairs and in relations with the outside world.
We strongly support this vision and will do our best to help you on the way,” the diplomat added.
Following his meeting with President Lukashenka, Undersecretary Hale issued the following statement:https://t.co/HMrSxd0qPh
— U.S. Embassy Minsk (@USEmbBy) September 17, 2019
David Hale noted that the U.S. is doing it not for the sake of competing with some other country but for the sake of fully realizing the potential of bilateral relations.
“We highly value this region and we are very attentive to security threats. And also because we strongly support Belarus’ sovereignty and independence.”
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.
This January, MFA head Vladimir Makei reportedly called U.S. Assistant State Secretary Wess Mitchell to inform him about the decision to lift a long-standing cap on the number of U.S. diplomats in the country.
In March, Vladimir Makei met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and officially announced the lifting of restrictions on the number of employees of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
He also expressed hope that this step would further normalize relations between Belarus and the United States.