BAKU: Belarusian leader cancels meeting with Azeri premier

Belarusian leader cancels meeting with Azeri premier

Ekho, Baku
2 Apr 04

The Belarusian president’s failure to meet the visiting Azerbaijani
premier is a “political demarche”, according to a Belarusian
commentator. In an interview with Azeri daily Ekho, he said that the
internal affairs of Belarus were more important for Alyaksandr
Lukashenka than his country’s relations with Azerbaijan. However, the
Azerbaijani ambassador in Minsk played down talk of political
manoeuvres. He said that Lukashenka had had to deal with pressing
problems in Brest Region and so could not meet the Azerbaijani
premier. The following is an excerpt from R. Orucov and N. Aliyev’s
report in Ekho on 2 April headlined “April fool’s ‘joke’ by
Lukashenka”, subheaded ” Belarusian president declines to meet
Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizada … because of fight against
corruption”, subheadings inserted editorially:

A three-day visit to Belarus by an Azerbaijani government delegation,
headed by Prime Minister Artur Rasizada, ended yesterday [1
April]. The Azerbaijani ambassador to Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova,
Talat Aliyev, told Ekho that Rasizada had already left Minsk for an
official visit to Lithuania.

Belarusian leader declines to meet Azeri premier

As is known, the prime ministers of the two countries signed numerous
intergovernmental documents during the Azerbaijani delegation’s visit
to Minsk. They are agreements on free trade, air communications,
cooperation in geodesy, cartography, land development and land
registry and a protocol on cooperation between the foreign ministries
of the two countries. But the most remarkable aspect of the visit was
the agreements not reached. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
made a very unusual gesture in terms of normal diplomatic relations –
he declined to meet Artur Rasizada. The Belarusian presidential
administration naturally gave the Azerbaijani side their official
excuses, but it was done too late – on 1 April – when the meeting
ought to have taken place. All this seems very strange, since the
Azerbaijani premier’s visit to Belarus had been scheduled and endorsed
a long time before. In any case, the Belarusian news agency MiK quoted
the country’s Foreign Ministry as saying that the Azerbaijani prime
minister’s visit was expected in March. Thus, Lukashenka could have
reconsidered his plans long before 1 April.

“We do not have special details why the previously scheduled meeting
between Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizada and Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka did not take place,” the Belarusian
political expert and employee of the Minsk office of Radio Liberty,
Valeryy Karbalevich, said.

[Correspondent] Does President Lukashenka often decline to have
prearranged meetings?

[Karbalevich] Yes. This happens from time to time. This has happened
with some Western delegations. It is known that Belarus has quite
difficult relations with Western countries and, therefore, Lukashenka
has declined to receive delegations if talks have been difficult and
not yielded the results expected by Minsk. I can remember such
incidents with representatives of the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund etc. He declined to meet them, despite agreements
reached on this beforehand.

Cancelled meeting a political manoeuvre

This kind of act by Lukashenka is a political demarche. What is behind
the refusal to meet the Azerbaijani prime minister? It’s difficult to
say. You need to ask Lukashenka himself.

[Correspondent] Relations between Belarus and Azerbaijan are quite
cool, in view of the close military cooperation between Minsk and

[Karbalevich] If this is the reason, then the meeting would not have
been scheduled beforehand. As far as Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations
are concerned in general, then they are insignificant, minimum, or
simply zero. Meanwhile, Lukashenka is known to have a high opinion
about the CIS states. One should bear in mind that Belarus has been
internationally isolated and not many states are ready to receive
Lukashenka at home.

[Correspondent] Lukashenka could not meet the Azerbaijani premier,
since he was in Brest [southwestern Belarus] apparently on important
business. What could have been happening place in Brest to urge the
president to postpone important state issues?

[Karbalevich] Lukashenka has been in Brest Region for two days. His
visit is being widely broadcast on TV. But the situation is really
quite strange. Large-scale corruption and misappropriation were
suddenly revealed in Brest. A new governor was appointed, although
nothing extraordinary has ever happened in the region. That region is
neither worse nor better than any other regions of Belarus. The point
is that Lukashenka is launching a new political campaign under the
motto of establishing order and discipline. All this has started from
Brest Region.

[Passage omitted: more details of the campaign]

Avoiding a meeting with Rasizada shows that for Lukashenka the
campaign is more important than relations with Azerbaijan.

Azeri officials play down talk of political manoeuvres

The press services of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and the Cabinet
of Ministers did not know about this yesterday [1 April]. The Foreign
Ministry said that Rasizada was part of their department, while the
Cabinet of Ministers offered to phone the next day.

Ekho managed to get in touch with a representative of the Azerbaijani
diplomatic office in Belarus, Ayar Huseynov.

“According to the information from Belarus, Lukashenka attended an
extraordinary session in Brest,” the diplomat said to explain the
reason for the incident. Then we spoke to ambassador Talat
Aliyev. Asked if it President Lukashenka’s step should be seen as a
political demarche by the Belarusian side, the ambassador said: “I
resolutely disagree with that assessment, since Mr Lukashenka had to
deal with urgent and pressing issues in Brest Region. He had to hold
an extraordinary session there and for this reason, had to visit the

The ambassador did not agree that Lukashenka’s gesture showed that the
resolution of internal political problems (linked to prolonging the
term of the presidency) was more important than the development of
relations with Azerbaijan.

“I think the Belarusian political expert is mistaken here,” Aliyev

[Passage omitted: every state figure interested in improving ties with
other states]

In turn, independent diplomatic expert Tamerlan Qarayev said that “the
Minsk incident might not lead to damaging consequences, if Belarus
gives an appropriate explanation and Azerbaijan accepts it. If the
explanation is not satisfactory, then this will affect the mutual
relations between the two countries.”

[Passage omitted: Qarayev thinks this was not a political demarche,
details of Rasizada’s visit to Lithuania]