US, Belarus to restore envoys after 10-year freeze

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The United States and Belarus are preparing to exchange ambassadors after more than a decade of tensions, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday.

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as Washington looks to improve ties with the isolated regime in Minsk.

In a statement released by the US embassy after the talks, Hale said US-Belarus relations were at a “historic juncture.”

“It is my honor to announce that we are prepared to exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing our relationship,” he said.

Hale did not say when the ambassadors, who were withdrawn from both capitals in 2008, might return.

The 65-year-old Lukashenko is a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus’s improvement in ties with Washington comes amid apparent Kremlin pressure for closer ties between Moscow and Minsk.

Often dubbed “Europe’s last dictatorship,” Belarus has been the target of Western sanctions over its poor rights record and lack of fair elections.

During the talks with Hale on Tuesday, Lukashenko said he wanted to improve ties with Washington.

“We will do everything for our relations to develop,” he said in comments released by his office.

Hale’s visit follows a trip to Belarus last month by then-national security advisor John Bolton aimed at improving US relations with Minsk.

Lukashenko said then that he was looking to open a “new chapter” in ties with Washington.

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