EU ‘lacks credibility’: Bloc’s entire foreign policy plan blocked by single angry nation

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Cyprus blocked attempts by EU leaders to impose sanctions against some 40 Belarusian officials, including controversial president Alexander Lukashenko, in response to the disputed election results that saw the country’s leader secure a sixth term in office. Nicosia wanted the sanctions linked to similar action against Turkey amid a fiery dispute over natural gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: “It’s not a secret for anyone that we don’t have unanimity because one country has not participated.”

He added: “The issue will have to be considered by the heads of state and government at the European Council later this week.

“I haven’t blamed Cyprus for anything.

“It’s perfectly clear that we need Cyprus for unanimity. You can call that what you like, but it’s simply a statement of fact.”

Mr Borrell insisted he hopes for a sanctions regime to be agreed by foreign ministers at a meeting next month because the EU’s “credibility is at stake”.

European foreign ministers lashed out at their Cypriot counterpart for his decision to scupper a decision.

Latvian minister Edgars Rinkevics condemned the move, claiming it “sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world”.

Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde said: “On today’s EU foreign ministers meeting there was broad support to impose sanctions on Belarus.

“Sweden insists that we move on to decision without further delay. Strong support for the struggle of civil society.”

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikanouskaya, who attended the meeting, had called for a robust response from the EU27.

She told reporters: “We did a lot to manage with this situation by ourselves, with one the strength of the Belarusian people, but now I understand that we need exterior help.

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“At this meeting, I asked just to be more brave.”

Belarusian President Lukashenko, touted as Europe’s last dictator, sparked furious protests after returning 80 percent of the votes in country’s August election.

Several people have died in the protests since the vote, and Ms Tsikanouskaya has been forced to flee the country for her own safety.

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Mr Borrell said the EU does not recognise President Lukashenko as Belarus’ legitimate leader.

The Brussels chief called for new elections with independent monitoring from external agencies.

“We consider these elections falsified. We don’t recognise the result and so we don’t recognise Lukashenko’s legitimacy,” Mr Borrell concluded.

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