European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said on Friday that efforts to stem the flow of migrants massing at the border between Belarus and the European Union were bearing fruit.
“The overall situation is that we are witnessing progress on all fronts,” Schinas added at a press conference in Lebanon, noting that he will travel to Iraq and Turkey soon.
He said that the European Union is preparing to impose a fifth package with sanctions on Belarus, and the European Commission has also threatened to take action against other countries or airlines that contribute to the crisis by transporting migrants to Belarus.
The European official’s comments came after Turkey announced that it had banned Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis from traveling from Turkish airports to Belarus.
The Turkish Civil Aviation Authority said that Syrians, Yemenis and Iraqis will no longer be allowed to buy airline tickets from Turkey to Minsk.
A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry said talks were continuing with airlines and countries along the migration route, and that the Turkish ban showed that “we have had some success”.
The EU accuses Belarus of provoking a cross-border migration crisis by encouraging asylum seekers to cross the border illegally, which Minsk denied, and said it could only help solve the crisis if the EU lifted sanctions it had previously imposed on Belarus.
In this context, the US President expressed his “grave concern” about the crisis, and told reporters before leaving for the weekend at the presidential residence in Camp David, “We expressed our concerns to Russia and Belarus.”
And US Vice President Kamala Harris had previously expressed her belief that the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko “is engaged in very disturbing activities”, which have resulted in the refugees being stuck at the border in Poland, adding that the United States is “very concerned” about the crisis.
On the other hand, Belarus vowed that it would “respond harshly” to any attack targeting it, denouncing Poland’s deployment of a large number of its soldiers on the border between the two countries at the height of the migrant crisis.
“It seems that our neighbors in the West – especially Poland – are ready to ignite a conflict into which they want to drag Europe,” Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrinin said in a video message, warning that “the armed forces of Belarus are ready to respond harshly to any attack.”
In turn, France called on Russia to intervene with Belarus to stop the flow of refugees, and the French Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Armed Forces Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, during a meeting in Paris with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu, encouraged Russia to “use its close ties with Belarus to ensure that this stops,” according to a statement. Issued by the French Foreign Ministry.
Poland deployed 15,000 soldiers along the border, erected a fence topped with barbed wire, and agreed to build a wall on the border with Belarus. .
The Polish news agency reported that there are about 4,000 asylum seekers on the border between Poland and Belarus, and many of them tried last Monday to cross the border between the two countries.
Ukraine said it was deploying an additional 8,500 soldiers and police officers to its long northern border region with Belarus.
There are hundreds of migrants – most of them from the Middle East – who have been stuck for days at the border between Poland and Belarus in the midst of frost, while the World Health Organization expressed, on Friday, its “grave concern” for their situation.
Poland refuses to allow them to cross, while the West accuses the Belarusian president of bringing them into the country in order to send them to the border in retaliation for the sanctions imposed on his country.
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