Euro-parliament dubs Belarus envoy expulsions 'hostile act'
(BRUSSELS) - A decision by Belarus to expel the Polish ambassador and the European Union envoy while recalling its own envoys was "a hostile act," the president of the European parliament said Tuesday.
"I deeply regret this decision," Martin Schulz said in a statement. "It is a disproportionate, unhelpful and counter-productive step."
"I consider it a hostile act."
Belarus recalled its European Union and Polish ambassadors in protest over a new raft of sanctions imposed by Brussels over President Alexander Lukashenko's human rights record.
The ex-Soviet republic also told the EU and Polish ambassadors to Belarus to return to their capitals to relay Lukashenko's strong disagreement to their political leaderships.
"The head of the EU representative office and the Polish ambassador to Belarus have also been invited to travel to their capitals," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Poland, which has led the campaign within the European Union to impose sanctions on Belarus, has emerged as one of Lukashenko's top foes.
Many Belarusians have fled to neighbouring Poland in recent years, some lobbying Warsaw over conditions back home.
Belarus gave no indication the two ambassadors were being permanently expelled.
Germany and France both ordered their Belarus ambassadors home for consultations.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said other EU nations would likely recall their ambassadors too.
"It's a question of European solidarity," he said in a statement.
The Polish foreign ministry said the EU would respond further to the ambassadors' ejections.
"It's a hostile step toward the entire European Union," Poland's foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said of Minsk's latest diplomatic moves.
European parliament president Schulz said that "instead of choosing increasing self-isolation, Minsk should make the right choice for its people and open itself towards democracy.
"As the first step, Belarus should release unconditionally and rehabilitate all political prisoners.
"This would help in a review of the EU's restrictive measures and allow Belarus and the EU to embark on the path of gradual re-engagement."
European affairs ministers on Monday agreed an assets freeze and visa ban against 21 senior officials -- 19 magistrates and two highly placed police officers -- who were deemed involved in moves to stifle the opposition.
The 19 will be added to 210 people already black-listed over the continuing repression of civil society by Lukashenko's regime.
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