Meeting with EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti

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Belarus is interested in the development of cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti in Minsk on 18 February.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for cooperation and noted that Belarus received almost €1.650 billion from the bank for investment projects. A new strategy of cooperation between Belarus and the EBRD for 2016-2018 is under development.

"I would like to ask the EBRD to consider removing all restrictions on cooperation with Belarus, in particular with regard to state-owned enterprises, once they finish examining the situation in our country. I think the government will show you the state-owned enterprises and you will be able to decide for yourselves whether the bank could cooperate with these enterprises on a wide range of matters,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underscored that the Belarusian government will guarantee the reliability of this cooperation.

The Belarusian President pointed to another issue. The funds allocated to Belarus by the EBRD come to Belarus through the subsidiaries of the Russian banks: BelVEB, BPS-Sberbank, Belgazprombank and others.  "Today Russia is under sanctions, and if they are imposed on these banks, Belarus can lose the funding of your bank. This should not be allowed to happen. We need to find a way out of this situation,” the Belarusian leader remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the Belarusian side is ready to offer the options and consider the proposals of the EBRD to deepen the cooperation not only with Belarus but, perhaps, through Belarus with other states.

The Belarusian President suggests implementing a number of new projects in the country to the EBRD.

In particular, Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested considering the investment of funds to public utilities projects and noted that Belarus has done a lot to reform the public utilities sector.

Another cooperation avenue is the modernization of the transport system. “There is an outstanding situation with transit from east to west and vice versa due to the events in Ukraine. Therefore, Belarus is the only safe and reliable route. Due to the growing flow of transport via Belarus we are afraid that our infrastructure can be overloaded. That is why we are promptly modernizing the transport system, both automobile and railway transport,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the Belarusian side asked the World Bank to support this initiative. The bank is not against. Belarus also asks the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for help. “We could resolve this issue within two years, because if we do not do it, the flow of transport via Belarus could be too high for us to handle in the future,” the head of state said.

The Belarusian President also spoke about cooperation in agribusiness. “We will be glad if you are interested in these projects,” the Belarusian leader said.

“I understand that there are no serious problems between us. If it is true, I guarantee that it will be the same in the future. You will not have problems in cooperation with Belarus. If we agree, we will guarantee this cooperation on behalf of the state, will support it, will do our best to make this cooperation efficient and honest, safe and free from corruption,” the Belarusian President emphasized.

The EBRD president, in turn, assured that the cooperation between the bank and Belarus has been increasingly vibrant in the past three years. The bank invested over €700 million in the country in spite of the restrictions. “I am very proud of the fact that we could attract good investors to Belarus,” Suma Chakrabarti said and added that he is, first of all, referring to Stadler.

He also thanked the Belarusian head of state and Belarus for the important role in brokering peace in Ukraine.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to the fact that Belarus is trying to contribute to the resolution of the Ukraine conflict, however, it acts mostly in a non-public way.

“We have a very complicated situation at Debaltseve after the Minsk agreements came into effect. Belarus could play a bigger role in resolving this conflict if the two sides wanted it,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Today we have told the Ukrainian side and the other side involved in the conflict that the Debaltseve problem can be resolved within a day if there is a will for that on the part of Ukraine, Russia, DNR and LNR,” the Belarusian head of state noted.

“We are ready to be more than just an intermediary. We can help find a decent way out of the Debaltseve conflict and withdraw all Ukrainian forces from there under our guarantees that they will never fight again. If someone is concerned by the weaponry held by the Ukrainian military surrounded at Debaltseve, we are ready to take away these weapons and bring them to the territory of Belarus. Thus, it will never be used in hostilities,” the President noted. Aleksandr Lukashenko added that the consent of the conflicting sides is needed. “If their priority is the life of thousands of innocent people trapped there, we are ready to make this happen within a day,” the Belarusian head of state said.

“The people engaged in combat at Debaltseve and those involved in the conflict must be interested in it. You should know that there are all kinds of interests there, hence, different approaches,” the Belarusian leader noted.