In a further sign of warming ties between Belarus and the West, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has travelled to the capital Minsk.
It’s Solana’s first ever visit to the former Soviet republic, described as “Europe’s last dicatorship” by the the West, which has repeatedly criticised its democratic record.
But in the wake of the latest gas crisis, President Aleksander Lukashenko is keen to reduce his country’s dependence on Russian oil and gas and diversify his country’s energy resources.
In a gesture of goodwill, the EU lifted a travel ban on Lukashenko and other officials after Belarus authorities freed political prisoners six months ago .
But some sanctions were kept in place in a sign of dissatisfaction at elections deemed unfair by Western observers.