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5 January 2017

Belarus calls on Russia to follow previous border-crossing rules as talks continue

MINSK, 5 January (BelTA) – Belarus calls upon Russia to follow the previous well-established rules for the crossing of the common border by foreign nationals until the negotiations are over, spokesman for the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Mironchik told a press briefing on 5 January.

“As a rule, in situations when one side wants a change in the practice that has been in place for over 20 years, the parties first hold negotiations, and then implement the changes they agree upon. We invite our Russian partners to follow the previous practice which has proved effective in every respect while the negotiations are underway. The Russian side is not ready for this yet. However, we hope that the direct interaction among experts will help us align the positions and work out a mutually acceptable solution,” Dmitry Mironchik said.

He noted that the matter is discussed in a bilateral format by an interagency group. “The process is underway,” the spokesman said.

Dmitry Mironchik also pointed out that the previous assessment of the situation on the Belarusian-Russian border presented by Belarus’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains relevant.

As it has been stated, the system for crossing the Belarusian-Russian border is effective and adequate from the viewpoint of security. The Belarusian side believes that the absence of border controls between Russia and Belarus is one of the most remarkable achievements of the Union State. “It means actual freedom of movement for citizens of Belarus, Russia and third countries. We get great benefits from this in human and economic terms, including thanks to the opportunity for transit through Russia and Belarus that attracts foreigners,” Dmitry Mironchik said earlier.

At the same time, he stressed that this convenient transit option for third-country nationals does not mean the absence of control. Today, however, the Russian side views the absence of international crossing points on the common border as a problem. “If our partners think it is inconvenient for them, then it is necessary to address the issue. There are several options for dealing with this: either Russia arranges crossing points or we, for example, mutually recognize visas for transit purposes. By the way, this mechanism established in the CIS was used by both Russia and Belarus. However, in the early 2000s, Moscow abandoned it. Now Belarusian and Russian specialists are discussing this issue again. We will see which option the experts will choose,” Dmitry Mironchik said.

While the parties are trying to settle this issue, Belarus believes it is important that no unilateral moves are made to create problems for third-country citizens and Belarusian companies, including forwarders and travel agencies.