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Rinkevics calls on Minsk to ensure closer information exchange on Zapad 2017 exercise

RIGA - On July 18-19, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics was on a working visit to Belarus and met with the Prime Minister of Belarus, Andrei Kobyakov, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, the Minister of Economy, Vladimir Zinovski, the leaders of Belarus' three largest opposition parties, and foreign policy experts, LETA learned from the Latvian Foreign Ministry.

In meetings with the Belarusian Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and the Minister of Economy, Vladimir Zinovski, Rinkevics expressed satisfaction that after a two-year decline, the goods turnover has increased by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2017. The Ministers discussed issues concerning the export of Latvian fish and fish products to Belarus.

Latvia sees transport and logistics as one of priority areas for cooperation with Belarus, said Minister Rinkevics. He recalled that Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railways) has opened its representative office in Belarus and noted that Latvia hopes to develop a trilateral cooperation between Latvia, Belarus and China, especially as concerns channelling cargos from the Great Stone industrial park through Latvia's ports. The Foreign Minister said that Latviais interested in expanding cooperation in the tourism sector and invited Belarus to make use of medical tourism services offered by Latvia.

Belarus is an important neighbor to Latvia, and we want to sustain the dynamics of these relations, said Rinkevics. We are glad, he noted, that Latvia and Belarus will have an opportunity to host the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2021. Preparations for the championship will contribute to even more active cooperation in various fields, Rinkevics pointed out at the meeting with the Belarusian Foreign Minister.

Referring to cooperation in environmental protection, Rinkevics said that Latvia is prepared to sign a bilateral agreement on the protection of the Daugava River basin. The Minister stressed that projects for any new nuclear power plants, such as the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant, must comply with all international safety requirements. We call on Belarus to continue actively cooperating with stakeholders, share information and be open about the construction process of the Astravyets NPS.

The parties also discussed security policy issues. The Latvian Foreign Minister welcomed cooperation between Latviaand Belarus in the field of arms control, the countries implementing bilateral confidence- and security-building measures, which is a good example of promoting transparency in the region.

Rinkevics called on Belarus for a closer information exchange on the upcoming Zapad 2017 military exercise in September. The exercise is scheduled for 14 September to 20 September and will take place on seven Belarusian military training areas, involving practically all the forces of Russia's Western Military District. In parallel, a number of other drills will be held under various names while in fact a following a common scenario.

The Latvian Foreign Minister welcomed progress with negotiations on the EU-Belarus Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and expressed hope that an accord will be reached and the agreements will be signed by the end of the year.

Rinkevics also pledged Latvia's support for the accession of Belarus to the World Trade Organization. The Minister also invited Vladimir Makei to visit the Riga Conference scheduled for 29-30 September.

As part of his working visit, the Foreign Ministers took part in a ceremony for the cancellation of the Republic of Belarus postage stamps dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Belarus.

At the Embassy of Latvia in Minsk, the Foreign Ministers of both countries jointly launched the book by Dr. habil. hist. Ilgvars Butulis and Dr. habil. hist. Antonijs Zunda, "The History of Latvia", now translated into the Belarusian language.

During the visit, the Latvian Foreign Minister gave interviews to Radio Belarus and the TUT.BY portal for non-governmental organizations.

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