May 25, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron would like to invite the Belarus opposition to the Group of Seven summit due to be held next month in Cornwall, if host country Britain agrees, the French presidency said on Tuesday.
Western countries are keen to show their support for opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after authorities in Minsk forced down a passenger plane on Sunday and arrested a dissident journalist on board.
“The president is in favour of that (inviting the Belarusian opposition) if the British agree to it,” a French official said.
Asked about Macron’s stance, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was not immediately aware of any such proposal to invite the Belarusian opposition, adding: “I think the invite list for the G7 is already set.”
Macron became the highest-profile Western leader to meet Belarus’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhounskaya last September. Her supporters say she won Belarus’s contested presidential election last August, a claim Lukashenko denies.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Tsikhanouskaya, who is now based in Lithuania, a member state of the European Union that borders Belarus, thanked Macron for his call to have the Belarusian opposition invited to the G7 summit.
Airlines were shunning Belarusian air space on Tuesday and the country’s planes face a possible European ban following the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk on Sunday and the arrest of 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich.
The G7 groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada. Britain holds the G7 rotating presidency this year and has scheduled the summit for June 11-13 in the southwestern English county of Cornwall.
(Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Elizabeth Piper in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)