• Bassma Al Jandaly, Editor In Chief

Angela Merkel warns Vladimir Putin on Belarus

Angela Merkel warned Vladimir Putin not to intervene militarily in Belarus, after the Russian president announced he would send a newly created reserve police force there if the pro-democracy protests turned violent.

Speaking at her annual summer press conference, the German Chancellor said the Belarusian people are fighting for the right to protest and express their opinion “which we take for granted”, and that it should be authorized to exercise these rights “independently, without interference from outside. – from any direction ”.

“I hope that [the new Russian] the troops will not be deployed, ”added Merkel.

The Chancellor spoke as relations between Russia and Germany entered a new period of turbulence. Last week, the Russian opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, was rushed to hospital in Berlin after falling ill during a campaign trip to Siberia. Doctors at the city’s Charité Hospital said he was probably poisoned by a substance similar to a nerve agent. Russia has rejected their findings.

Charity said Friday that Navalny’s condition was stable. He remains in an induced coma, and is attached to a ventilator in intensive care.

Some politicians have suggested that Berlin should respond to the alleged poisoning of Mr Navalny by withdrawing from Nord Stream 2, the pipeline intended to bring Russian natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

Ms Merkel rejected this idea. “I think we should decouple these things,” she said. “We believe that Nord Stream 2 should be completed.” She reiterated her position that the pipeline is an “economic project” and connecting it to Mr. Navalny would not be “appropriate”.

Mr Putin’s mention of a new police force for Belarus, made Thursday in an interview with Russian state television, came after nearly three weeks of mass protests against the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the worst of his 26 years on the diet.

Lukashenko, who has long been financially supported by Russia, has repeatedly called for military aid from Moscow.

But Mr Putin stressed that he would only deploy the new force if the situation in Belarus “got out of hand” and “extremist elements” began to “set cars on fire” or “take over government buildings. “.

The Belarusian opposition alleges that the August 9 elections which gave Lukashenko a resounding victory were rigged. The EU declined to recognize the result, saying the poll was neither “free and fair”.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the bloc’s ministers reached an agreement to advance election sanctions and drew up a draft list of nearly 20 people to target .

Mr Borrell did not give details of when these sanctions might be imposed or who would be on the list, although he said this could expand depending on events in Belarus.

“[The list] was at the start of 12 years, then grew to almost 20, ”he told reporters after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin. “I think it will intensify further in the following days”

Ms Merkel also called for a negotiated settlement of the dispute in the Eastern mediterranean between Greece and Turkey on hydrocarbons. She said EU member states should “take things that our Greek friends present to us very seriously and support them when they are right”.

But when asked what she thought of France’s announcement to join naval exercises in the region, she replied, “I’ve always said we have to avoid any further escalation.” Greece and Turkey are both members of NATO “and we should try to resolve these issues within the alliance”.

Greece and Cyprus have called for EU sanctions to be imposed on Turkey in retaliation for what Athens calls illegal drilling activities in a region rich in natural gas.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has announced that France will join military exercises alongside Greece, Cyprus and Italy in the eastern Mediterranean. Ms Parly said the Mediterranean should be a place of “stability and respect for international law”, rather than a “playground for the ambitions” of certain actors.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s Foreign Minister, announced this week that Greece and Turkey are “playing with fire” and “any spark, no matter how small, could lead to disaster.”


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