2017 Muttonen AS Signing Minsk 150317Christine Muttonen and Vladimir Andreichenko following the signing of the Annual Session agreement in Minsk, 15 March 2017MINSK, 16 March 2017 – In meetings today with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, and yesterday with Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly Vladimir Andreichenko, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Christine Muttonen (MP, Austria) has welcomed the active engagement of Belarus in the OSCE PA, and expressed gratitude for the intensive efforts underway in Minsk in preparation for the Assembly’s 26th Annual Session in July.

“Belarus has long been one of the most active participants within the OSCE and our Parliamentary Assembly,” Muttonen said. “Its hosting of our Annual Session this year is an indication of Minsk’s high level of commitment to dialogue, and likewise, demonstrating the level of importance we attach to Belarus within our Assembly, Kent Harstedt has since April 2016 led efforts to increase engagement and promote the development of democracy in the country.”

She further voiced appreciation for the leading role that Belarus has played in facilitating a peaceful settlement of the crisis in and around Ukraine, and other diplomatic efforts. Underlining the importance of implementing all OSCE commitments, including those related to human rights improvements, democratization, and good governance, she welcomed in particular continuing dialogue on electoral reform in line with OSCE recommendations.

President Muttonen also discussed in depth with President Lukashenko, Foreign Minister Makei, and Chairman Andreichenko the issue of the ongoing demonstrations across the country over a controversial tax decree, including the alleged harassment of journalists and the arrests of opposition leaders. Muttonen took note of and expressed appreciation for the Belarusian leadership’s reassurances that law enforcement authorities will show restraint and respect the rule of law, and that the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and speech will be ensured.

Muttonen began her three-day visit to Belarus on Wednesday, meeting with Chairman Andreichenko and signing the official agreement between the Belarusian Parliament and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for the 26th Annual Session.

In discussions with Andreichenko, President Muttonen noted that the upcoming Annual Session will open up new opportunities for developing inter-parliamentary dialogue and expressed appreciation to the Belarusian Parliament for its work organizing the Session. Chairman Andreichenko personally leading the Organizing Committee of the Annual Session demonstrates the importance that Belarus attaches to the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly, Muttonen said.

The Session, taking place at the President Hotel on 5-9 July 2017, is expected to include some 300 parliamentarians from North America, Europe and Asia. The theme is “Enhancing mutual trust and co-operation for peace and prosperity in the OSCE region.”

“The theme of this Annual Session is positive and forward-looking, and should contribute to promoting vibrant and constructive international dialogue,” the President said. “As an Assembly of Members of Parliament from 56 countries, we can expect lively debates at the Annual Session on many issues on the international agenda, and we appreciate the Belarusian authorities’ openness to this discussion.”

The Belarusian side noted that Belarus is fully committed to the success of the Minsk Annual Session, which will provide an important opportunity for Belarusians to interact with people from a wide array of cultural backgrounds.

Muttonen, who is accompanied by OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella and Deputy Secretary General Gustavo Pallares, continues her visit Friday by meeting representatives of the international community.

For photos of the OSCE PA's presidential visit to Minsk, please click here.

For more information about the OSCE PA's 26th Annual Session in Minsk, please click here.