Thank you all for coming here so late in the day. I am pleased to be back in Minsk.
Today, I had positive meetings with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, representatives of opposition parties, members of civil society, and human rights activists to discuss the depth and breadth of our bilateral relationship.
As part of this visit, I am pleased to announce that temporary sanctions relief for nine Belarusian entities will soon be extended beyond October 31 for up to six additional months. Our sanctions relief is designed to support Belarus’ economic independence in line with our free-trade principles, to increase Belarus’ political independence, and to support its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In my meetings today, I stressed that continued progress on democracy and human rights issues is key to maintain positive momentum in relations between our two countries.
Improving these relations benefits both of our countries. We have seen this in the year since we initially provided sanctions relief: we have increased our diplomatic presence in Minsk to allow us to engage on issues such as trade and security, and we have improved our dialogue across the bilateral relationship on issues of strategic importance to both our countries. And as Belarus takes further steps in the areas of human rights and democracy, the United States stands ready to expand these bilateral ties.