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EU's von der Leyen says sanctions against Belarus to be widened

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By Reuters
EU's von der Leyen says sanctions against Belarus to be widened
EU's von der Leyen says sanctions against Belarus to be widened   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON – The European Union will widen sanctions against Belarus next week, European Commision President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday after a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden that touched on COVID-19, climate and foreign affairs.

“Very rapidly at the beginning of next week there will be a widening of the sanctions against Belarus,” she told reporters after the meeting, noting that sanctions would apply to individuals as well as entities.

EU diplomats have said the EU plans to target some 30 people and entities including the foreign minister and Belarusian airline Belavia.

The EU and NATO accuse President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as a weapon to pressure the West by sending people fleeing the Middle East to Minsk and then onto the borders of Poland and the Baltic states.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his ally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, have placed the blame on the EU.

Von der Leyen said she understood the United States had prepared sanctions against Belarus that would be in effect at the beginning of December.

“We will look into the possibility of sanctioning those airlines who facilitate human trafficking towards Minsk and then the EU-Belarus border,” she said.

The get-together with Biden came shortly the two leaders met during the G20 gathering of world leaders in Rome and the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow. Biden is seeking to mend relations with Europe after ties were strained under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

The White House said ahead of the meeting that the two leaders would discuss “rules of the road” for the economy through a joint U.S.-EU trade and technology council, global warming, and regional issues such as Ukraine and the Western Balkans.

“President Biden will reaffirm his support for the European Union as a fundamental partner for the United States,” White House spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

Transatlantic relations have improved under Biden, with the United States and the EU settling two major trade disputes on aircraft subsidies and steel production to make common cause on bigger threats posed by China.