EU leaders reach agreement on Belarus sanctions, but only after concessions to Cyprus

European Union leaders managed to agree on Friday to impose sanctions on Belarus, in the aftermath of an allegedly rigged presidential election in August, and subsequent acts of violence and repression by the state.

In what was described to EUToday as a "typical Brussels carve-up" agreement depended on the EU giving reassurances to Cyprus that the bloc would punish Turkey if it continued to drill for oil and gas in disputed areas of the Mediterranean.

The sanctions will affect some 40 officials accused of rigging the election. President Alexander Lukashenko is not among those singled out.

“No. Lukashenko is not on the current list, but of course we will follow the situation, we will follow developments,” Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said after meeting EU leaders.

Great Britain and Canada earlier imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his son and other senior officials, the first western powers to do so.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Canada and the UK acted in concert to ensure the sanctions have a greater effect.

“Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus as they struggle to restore human rights and achieve democracy in their country,” he said.

The impasse in the EU, where decisions require unanimity inevitably preceded by horse-trading, has dented the credibility of the bloc’s foreign policy, diplomats say.

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