The European Union has recalled all its ambassadors from Belarus after Minsk expelled two representatives over fresh sanctions imposed by the bloc. The sanctions targeted 21 Beluarusian officials.
The EU announced late on Tuesday that all member states' ambassadors to Belarus were being recalled for consultations, after Minsk expelled two representatives.
"In expression of solidarity and unity it was agreed that the ambassadors of the EU member states in Minsk will all be withdrawn for consultations to their capitals," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
"All EU member states will also summon Belarusian ambassadors to their foreign ministries," her statement said. "At the same time I have called a meeting of member states' ambassadors in Brussels today to coordinate our response."
Earlier in the day, Minsk said that the Polish ambassador and the EU's envoy should leave after Warsaw successfully pushed for fresh EU sanctions against Belarus.
"The head of the EU representative office and the Polish ambassador to Belarus have also been invited to travel to their capitals," Belarus' foreign ministry said in a statement.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had already said other EU nations would probably recall their ambassadors in response to Minsk's actions.
"It is intolerable for us as Europeans to see human rights and citizens' rights in Belarus thus violated. This is the last dictatorship in Europe," Westerwelle said.
European affairs ministers had agreed on Monday to an assets freeze and visa ban against 21 Belarusian senior officials deemed to have been involved in moves to stifle the opposition.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has led the country since 1994, and has retained Soviet-style control, cracking down on opposition politicians and independent media.
rc / msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)