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Spanish minister asks Belarus counterpart to stop violence, open dialogue

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MADRID/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya called for the cessation of violence and a national dialogue in Belarus in a telephone conversation with her Belarusian counterpart on Wednesday before an emergency EU meeting on the crisis.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said earlier Vladimir Makei and Gonzalez Laya had agreed no outside power should try to interfere in Belarus, although the Spanish minister made no reference to that detail in an interview with Spanish state radio station RNE.

She said she had asked her counterpart to convey the view that Belarusian authorities should cease violence, free those arrested during the mass protests following the Aug. 9 election and begin a dialogue with the opposition.

“It is important to channel the obvious discontent on the streets into a national dialogue as broad and open as possible, which takes steps in the direction of solidifying democracy in Belarus,” she said.

She also reiterated that potential EU sanctions should not target the people of Belarus, but just those responsible for election fraud and violence against peaceful protesters.

The phone call came ahead of an emergency European Union video conference set to discuss the crisis unfolding in Belarus.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; additional reporting by Jose Elías Rodriguez in Madrid; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Toby Chopra