EU criticises Belarus over political prisoners
(BRUSSELS) - The European Union's top diplomat on Monday blasted Belarus over its ongoing opposition clampdown, saying there is "no place" for political prisoners in Europe.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was speaking after a meeting with Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov in Brussels.
"We stressed the importance of the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, of reversing the current repressive policies and of free and fair parliamentary elections in September," she said.
"Our message to Belarus was clear: there is no place for political prisoners at the heart of Europe," she added.
Since his disputed election in December 2010, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been criticised for clampdown on opposition figures.
The EU has repeatedly criticised the ex-Soviet state for rights abuses freezing its assets and imposing a travel ban on dozens of firms and hundreds of senior figures in the administration.
Ashton said the EU remained attached to a "policy of critical engagement" with Belarus. The 27-member bloc was "ready to deepen cooperation once the situation has changed."
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