Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday that Belarus must seek a "balanced" foreign policy in the global stage and serve as a bridge between East and West, according to reports reaching here.
"Belarus pursues a balanced foreign policy, which rigorously protects and unswervingly promotes the national interests," Lukashenko said in his annual address to the parliament in Minsk.
Belarus will not be manipulated to "choose between East and West," said the president, defying what some observers consider as "an inevitable dilemma."
"Our task is to be a bridge between East and West," he said.
"East and West must clam down and think for just a second what our internal interests are...(and) allow us to pursue a policy that will be beneficial and harmless to all," he said.
The president noted that the country is particularly trying to maintain balanced ties with the European Union and Russia in what he described as a "multivector" principle in his country's foreign policy.
"We want to be with Russia and we want to be friends with Europe," he said.
The EU has invited Belarus to a summit between the EU nations and its eastern neighbors scheduled for May 7 in the Czech capital Prague.
The EU maintains a travel ban against Lukashenko and other senior Belarusian officials. But EU foreign ministers agreed in March to suspend the application of the ban for another nine months given positive developments in Belarus with regard to democracy.
In his speech, Lukashenko also said Belarus is seeking broader cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Closer ties with the SCO would help promote Belarus's international status, he said.
The SCO, founded in June 2001, is a regional security organization comprising Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.