Brussels: The European Union (EU) and United States said on Thursday they would temporarily ease some sanctions on Belarus after its release of political prisoners and what some regard as an easing of repression in the close Russian ally.
The European Union said it will suspend its sanctions on Belarus for four months from Saturday, including those on authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, making good on its promise to reward a perceived opening up to Europe.
Lukashenko's pardoning of jailed political prisoners and a perceived lack of repression after the re-election this month of a man whom the United States once said runs Europe's last "dictatorship", influenced the EU's approach, diplomats said.
In a statement confirming the decision, the European Union noted "the context of improving EU-Belarus relations".
EU governments have "suspended for four months the asset freeze and travel ban applying to 170 individuals and the asset freeze applying to three entities in Belarus," said the Council of the European Union, which is akin to an EU senate.
Separately, the US Treasury said that from Saturday it would allow most transactions with nine sanctioned entities in Belarus for the next six months.
It named the nine as Belarusian Oil Trade House, Belneftekhim, Belneftekhim USA, Inc, Belshina OAO, Grodno Azot OAO, Grodno Khimvolokno OAO, Lakokraska OAO, Naftan OAO and Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was taking the step "in light of the positive move by the Belarusian government to release all six of its political prisoners on Aug. 22."
The report comes as the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China are scheduled to meet in Seoul on Sunday where reigning in the North's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is likely to be discussed.