00:35 GMT02 April 2020
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    Belarus moves to further cut Embassy staff, urges U.S. to follow

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    Belarus's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday it would be making additional cuts to its Embassy staff in Washington and urged the United States to do the same.

    MINSK, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday it would be making additional cuts to its Embassy staff in Washington and urged the United States to do the same.

    The Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in Belarus, Jonathan Moore, to deliver the official note.

    "An official note was given to the U.S. representative regarding the refusal by the U.S. to withdraw additional economic restrictions against Belneftekhim, as well as the U.S. administration consistent policy of reducing its contacts with the Belarusian side, the Republic of Belarus has decided to additionally cut its Embassy staff in Washington," The Foreign Ministry said.

    The note also contained Article 11 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations suggesting the U.S. side reduce its Embassy staff in Minsk by the same number and within the same timescale. The ministry, however, specified neither.

    Tensions between the two countries heightened after Washington imposed sanctions last November against Belarus's state-controlled petrochemical company Belneftekhim and froze the assets of its U.S. subsidiary. American companies were banned from dealing with it.

    The Belarusian Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador earlier this month for consultations and demanded that the U.S. cut by half the number of staff at its embassy in Belarus. The U.S. agreed.

    Until recently the U.S. employed 38 diplomats in Belarus, and Minsk had 18 diplomatic staff in Washington.

    The U.S. and the European Union have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections. Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term in 2006, and other senior Belarusian officials have been blacklisted from entering the U.S. and EU.

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