European Union foreign ministers say they are committing to suspend sanctions on Belarus following the release of political prisoners there earlier this year and an election that was more transparent and calm than previous polls.

France's Europe minister, Harlem Desir, said Monday's foreign affairs meeting agreed for the next four months "to suspend the sanctions, but that can be put in place again immediately if it proves justified."

If fully enacted over the next weeks, it could signal a major step in ending the nine-year-long international isolation for authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko, who has been declared the winner of a fifth term as president following a campaign boycotted by the opposition, was slapped with an EU and U.S. travel ban in 2006 when a presidential candidate was jailed.