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July 17 – July 23, 2017

Minsk aims to boost economic cooperation with Kyiv

The situation has not changed
Minsk aims to boost economic cooperation with Kyiv

Minsk aspires to give momentum to trade, economic and military-technical cooperation with Kyiv and boost bilateral trade through political contacts. The Belarusian authorities are unlikely to count on direct assistance from Kyiv in settling relations with Washington and European capitals, however aspire for its support in promoting peacekeeping initiatives. Apparently, in his non-public meetings on the first day of the visit, President Lukashenka assured his counterpart of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border security during the “West-2017” Russo-Belarusian military exercise.

Last week, President Lukashenka held official talks in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Previously, Minsk was not particularly eager to develop political relations with Kiev, although trade and economic cooperation was quite high: almost USD 8 billion trade turnover with a significant positive balance for Belarus in 2012. Minsk started to develop high-level political contacts when it became a negotiating platform for resolving the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine. In last three months, presidents Lukashenka and Poroshenko have met twice.

The president has attempted to relax tension in Ukraine due to the “West-2017” Russo-Belarusian military exercise. The Belarusian-Ukrainian summit coincided with the aggravation of the confrontation in the east of Ukraine, which undoubtedly enhanced concerns in Ukrainian society about a possible Russian aggression. In addition to the desire to relax tension in the region, Minsk aspires to raise its international status through peacekeeping initiatives.

In addition, Minsk is attempting to insure against future oil and gas disputes with Russia, in particular, after the presidential elections in 2018. Earlier, amid aggravation with the Kremlin over gas and oil, Belarus imported insignificant volumes of Azerbaijani and Iranian oil through Ukraine. Hence, Minsk is interested in developing trade and economic relations with Kiev and regaining access to the Ukrainian market (trade turnover halved in 20112-2015). In return, the Belarusian authorities offer Kyiv access for Ukrainian producers to the Eurasian market.

Minsk aspires to remove concerns in Ukrainian society over the Belarusian-Russian military exercise, while remaining a partner for both, the Kremlin and Kyiv. As a bonus, the Belarusian leadership counts on the growth in bilateral trade turnover due to friendly high-level contacts.

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