Washington, DC - On December 16, the United States and Belarus convened the second Working Group for Democracy and Human Rights. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Bridget Brink, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor Robert Berschinski, and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Katz participated for the United States in meetings with senior Belarusian officials, including Foreign Ministry Director for the Americas Oleg Kravchenko and Belarusian Chargé d’Affaires Pavel Shidlovsky.

The two sides discussed the importance of ensuring that next year’s parliamentary elections meet international standards; our shared OSCE commitments to uphold freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association; the importance of facilitating space for the development of civil society and independent media in order to build a more secure and prosperous society; best practices in the area of rule of law; and a review of the results and recommendations the two countries received during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of their obligations in the UN Human Rights Council.

The United States welcomed Belarus’ release of six political prisoners in August and urged Belarus to take additional positive steps in the areas of democracy and human rights. In particular, the United States called on Belarus to take steps to conduct its upcoming parliamentary elections in line with the standards of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The United States noted that enhanced respect for democracy and human rights in Belarus is fundamental to improving bilateral relations, and is essential to the prosperity of the country. If Belarus takes further positive steps in the areas of democracy and human rights, the United States will look to take additional steps in response, with the goal of eventual normalization of relations.

The United States also remains committed to supporting Belarusian sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.