Belarus says it does not want confrontation, wants European Union to take migrants

Belarus does not wish any confrontation with Poland but the country still wants an answer from the EU on the fate of 2,000 stranded migrants, President Alexander Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Belta news agency on Monday.

The EU accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the EU via Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in response to European sanctions. Minsk denies responsibility for the crisis.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed concern on Sunday that the migrant crisis on the Belarus border may be a prelude to “something much worse,” and Poland’s border guard said Belarusian forces were still ferrying migrants to the frontier.

Lukashenko, said during an interview with Belta news agency that he did not want things to escalate. “We need to get through to the Poles, to every Pole, and show them that we’re not barbarians, that we don’t want confrontation. We don’t need it. Because we understand that if we go too far, war is unavoidable,” he said. “And that will be a catastrophe. We understand this perfectly well. We don’t want any kind of flare-up.”

The plan proposed by Belarus last week would entail EU countries taking in migrants, while Minsk would send another 5,000 back home, and Lukashenko said Belarus was preparing a second migrant repatriation flight at the end of this month.

Faced with an initial rebuff from the bloc, Lukashenko said on Monday he must insist Germany, which is the preferred destination of many migrants, take in a number of them. Germany, amongst others, emphatically rejected his renewed call.

“The idea of having a humanitarian corridor to Germany for 2,000 migrants is not a solution that is acceptable to Germany or the EU,” a government spokesman said on Monday, which Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg echoed in a joint news conference with Tikhanouskaya.

“The EU must not give in to blackmail from Lukashenko. We have to respond united and very clearly to this state-sponsored hybrid attack on the European Union,” Schallenberg said.

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