European Union sanctions on Belarus will likely hit the country's potash and oil sectors, as well as financial transactions, foreign ministers from Germany, Luxembourg and Lithuania say.
Tasked by EU leaders with preparing economic sanctions after the forced landing of a passenger plane in Belarus and the detention of a dissident journalist, foreign ministers began deliberations in Lisbon on sanctions that go beyond individuals.
"The hijacking of the plane and the detention of the two passengers is completely unacceptable, and we will start discussing implementation of the sectorial and economic sanctions," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters before the informal meeting in Lisbon.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said potash should be central to any new sanctions meant to pressure Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who the opposition and the West say rigged presidential elections last August.
"The keyword, I think, is potash. We know that Belarus produces very much potash, it is one of the biggest suppliers globally, and I think it would hurt Lukashenko very much if we managed something in this area," Asselborn said.
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: "We aim to target the economic structure and financial transactions in Belarus significantly."
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the EU should consider hitting the oil sector with sanctions.
Ministers are aiming for agreement on June 21, when they meet in Luxembourg, and before the next meeting of EU leaders.
Australian Associated Press