World

EU warms a little to Belarus as relations with Moscow hit lows over Ukraine

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as they attend a signing ceremony of documents during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow,  Russia, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as they attend a signing ceremony of documents during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow,  Russia, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

The European Union is starting to warm to Belarus again after years of bitter division during which the east European nation was coined as "the last dictatorship" on the continent.

At the end of Saturday's EU foreign affairs meeting, the Latvian host said that as relations with Russia take a further dive "we see the opportunity to broaden and deepen relations with Belarus."

"There are of course some outstanding issues, political prisoners," said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. But, he added, "we see that we can also move more in this direction."

The move is seen to reward authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for his help in clinching a Ukraine peace deal in his capital Minsk last month and some hesitant signs of more democratic openness.