Belarus and Latvia can significantly improve their relations in various fields, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with Latvia Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis on 8 February.
“Honestly, I am very happy to see you in Belarus. It is good that you have come. They say that we have good relations with Latvia (at least in comparison with other neighbors). But I think that we can do better. There is a big untapped potential. In this context, your visit to Belarus is a landmark one,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
According to the President, Belarus and Latvia can make serious progress in all avenues of cooperation that are of mutual interest. This pertains to the economic and political dimensions. “We need to step up efforts a little bit. Therefore, I hope that we will manage to do a lot after this visit,” the head of state remarked.
“You are right when you say that I am a too Soviet man. Yes, I am a Soviet man. I have never viewed Latvia and Riga as an alien country and an alien city. You are not alien people for us, we used to lived in one country. I think the same about Lithuanians and Estonians. Therefore, you should believe that Latvia is not an alien country for us, and it does not matter what world views and political views I have,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.
Alexander Lukashenko said that the Belarusian side is ready to develop relations with Latvia on the basis of compromise. “We are ready to build relations with you, we want you and us to be more independent in terms of hydrocarbons. You have a direct access to the sea, so we can agree on deliveries. Renewable energy and electric energy are especially important topics,” the President said.
During the meeting the Belarusian leader also spoke about Belarus’ relations with neighboring countries, particularly with Russia. “We are not going to create any problems for our neighbors. It is bad when neighbors are disappointed. This is our principle in the relations with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. We have never reproached you for joining the European Union. On the contrary, we are trying to benefit from it, and we are happy when you are a success. But you should clearly understand that Russia is a friendly country with fraternal people for us,” Alexander Lukashenko emphasized.
The President acknowledged that there are certain issues in the relations between Belarus and Russia. “But this is a different story. These are not the relations between the people of Belarus and the people of Russia. These are the relations of the two governments, the President of Russia and the President of Belarus. If we do not manage to build something sometimes, it has nothing to do with the relations of our peoples,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko remarked that the relations with Russia are also beneficial for Belarus from the economic perspective. “Belarus’ economy is rather strong. According to various estimates, we produce from $75 billion to $100 billion here. As you understand, economic results should materialize in trade. The European Union and Russia are our major markets,” the President said.
The head of state added that the Belarusian and Russian national economies are still closely connected. Belarus purchases many raw materials in the neighboring country. “About 10 million people are working at Russian enterprises where we purchase goods. And they also depend on us: if we stop buying components, metals, hydrocarbons, there will be huge reduction at those enterprises. Therefore, we can see interdependence in the economy,” the Belarusian leader said.
The President paid special attention to the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant. “This NPP is Belarusian. We are moving towards globalization, the boundaries are blurring. The time will come when it becomes a common heritage of Belarus and Latvia,” Alexander Lukashenko remarked.
The head of state thanked Latvia for not criticizing Belarus for the construction of its own nuclear power plant. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the BelNPP will benefit the current generation and the future ones, too.
Alexander Lukashenko said that Poland also wants to build its own NPP, but no one takes a stand against these plans. “We will construct the plant. We are building it in compliance with the principles of the international law. I often suggest that we think together how we can use it,” the head of state remarked.
The President also considers it possible to invite over the Lithuanian specialists who had earlier worked at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant but lost their jobs when the facility was closed. “We are not afraid of this, although this is a very important facility,” he stated.
In his words, Belarus is very interested in the safety of its nuclear power plant, more than other states. “We bear the responsibility. For some reason, no one is against the nuclear power plants that are built everywhere. Russia builds scores of such plants and reactors across the globe. This is why we will complete the BelNPP construction. And I suggest we reap mutual benefits from it,” the Belarusian leader summarized.
The President stressed once again that Belarus is interested in the development of relations with Latvia. “I think that thanks to this visit we will be able to agree on many things. You will have nothing to be ashamed before the Latvians. Neither will our prime minister before the Belarusians. The only thing I would like to highlight is that we will never be friends with any country against Russia, as with other countries against Latvia
The President emphasized the need to maintain peace and calm in the region. Enough of that conflict in the east of Ukraine that they cannot settle for several years already. “God forbid it gains its negative development. Therefore, let us keep this land, the geographical center of Europe, peaceful and calm. In this regard, you can count on Belarus,” the head of state said.
Maris Kucinskis, in turn, expressed hope to boost cooperation with Belarus. “I believe that this visit will give a certain impetus to our relations. As for economic cooperation, in my opinion, we have not taken advantage of many fields of common interest,” Maris Kucinskis noted.
e drew attention to the fact that Latvia knows Belarus well and the sides can speak one language, which also promotes their contacts. “We can search for opportunities to develop cooperation not only in transit and logistics. Yesterday the PM (Andrei Kobyakov) and I agreed to discuss certain matters to be working on,” the Latvian PM remarked.
he official said he intends to visit Belarus’ Hi-Tech Park. There are good prospects for cooperation in this field too, he stated.
he Latvian PM stressed the interest in cooperation in agriculture, forestry, education, and science. “I think that we can develop cooperation in other areas,” he added.
oreover, Latvia and Belarus interact within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative. This avenue of cooperation also was in the spotlight of the negotiations with Alexander Lukashenko.