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Belarus awaits Pompeo’s Feb. 1 visit considered highest level U.S. visit in decade

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Belarus expects U.S. top diplomat Mike Pompeo to visit on Feb. 1, state news agency BelTA reported on Wednesday, citing the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

Secretary of State Pompeo would be the highest level U.S. official to have visited the authoritarian former Soviet republic since diplomatic relations were frayed over a decade ago.

Pompeo had earlier this month postponed a trip to Eastern Europe that would have included Belarus, due to concerns over an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by supporters of Iranian-backed militiamen.

Insular Belarus has been led by the same president, Alexander Lukashenko, for a quarter of a century.

Belarus is neighbouring Russia’s closest ally in Europe.

The U.S. and Belarus have been restoring diplomatic relations in recent months, with the then U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, visiting Lukashenko in August to discuss non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Relations unravelled when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Lukashenko following the 2006 Belarusian presidential election on the allegation that he was involved in “human rights abuses related to political repression.”

The sanctions prompted Belarus to recall its ambassador from the U.S. and insist that the U.S. ambassador leave Belarus.

“In 2008, the Belarusian government unilaterally forced the U.S. embassy to withdraw its ambassador and reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats,’’ the embassy said in a statement.

Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim

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