Turkey behind lack of NATO pressure on Lukashenko over human rights

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The official reaction from NATO on last week’s forced landing of a passenger plane and the subsequent arrest of a dissident journalist by Belarus was “watered down” upon Turkey’s push, Reuters cited sources familiar with the matter as saying on Thursday. NATO “strongly condemned” the diversion of the Ryanair flight on May 23 and the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, it said in a statement released on Wednesday. “This unacceptable act seriously violated the norms governing civil aviation and endangered the lives of the passengers and crew,” NATO said. “The detention of Mr. Pratasevich is an affront to the principles of political dissent and freedom of the press.” NATO also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Pratasevich and Sapega, and on Belarus to “respect fundamental human rights” and “abide by the rules-based international order”. “We support measures taken by Allies individually and collectively in response to this incident,” it said, refraining from citing punitive steps demanded by Poland and Baltic countries. According to diplomats speaking to Reuters, Ankara pushed for the scrapping of any mention of support for sanctions on Belarus and calls for the release of other political prisoners in Belarus. By Ankara’s push, threats to suspend NATO cooperation with the country were also removed from the statement, Reuters said. The diplomats told Reuters a possible reason for the push could be Ankara’s attempt to preserve relations with Russia, closely allied with Belarus, and maintain economic relations via Turkey’s flagship carrier Turkish Airlines (THY). Another motive could be the preservation of tourism, Reuters said. During a joint press event with Erdoğan on Monday, Polish President Andrzej Duda called the arrest “unacceptable in terms of international law”, and said: “Some politicians have commented harshly on the arrest of a Belarusian dissident from the plane.” Erdoğan chose not to comment on the matter. European airlines suspended flights to Minsk over the arrest, Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday, following Monday’s EU sanctions. The bloc banned Belarus from using its airspace, European Council President Charles Michel’s spokesman Barend Leyts announced, alongside several other measures.

Ahval

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