Belarus has removed visa requirements for citizens of 80 countries visiting the republic for up to five days via its main airport in Minsk, officials in the capital said on January 9.
The move comes as a surprise as Belarus maintained stringent controls of foreign citizens entering its territory since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the decision reflects recent government efforts to attract foreign investment and improve ties with the European Union especially.
“Naturally the choices [of countries] are not accidental. We are talking about opening our country virtually to the entire world,” Igor Fisenko, head of the Central Consular Office of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told BelTA news agency.
The new regulations will apply to 39 countries in Europe, including the entire EU, as well as Brazil, Indonesia, the US, Japan, and other countries. To avoid visa requirements, visitors must cross the state border in the Minsk National Airport.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on the same day signed a corresponding decree that stipulates how foreign citizens can enter or leave the country without visas.
The foreign ministry official Fisenko said the government was hoping the decision would elicit a reciprocal improvement of contacts with other countries.
“As far as official contacts are concerned, we believe that rules of reciprocity need to be followed. In other words, we are going to open up for official contacts as much as our partners are ready for it. We have already sent the relevant proposals. We expect to get a response soon,” he said.
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