Tsikhanouskaya says foreign powers could mediate in Belarus's unrest

WARSAW (Reuters) - Belarus’s opposition could ask foreign countries to play a mediation role if Belarus is not able to resolve its own internal conflict, exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said during a visit to Poland on Wednesday.

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Belarus has been rocked by mass protests since veteran president Alexander Lukashenko won an election on Aug. 9 that his opponents say was rigged.

Both the opposition and the European Union have said the crisis is an internal matter that Belarusians should be allowed to deal with themselves.

“In a situation where we were not able to resolve this problem alone, maybe in the future we would ask other countries to act as mediators in future negotiations,” Tsikhanouskaya told an economic forum in the town of Karpacz.

Tsikhanouskaya, who earlier met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw, added that the opposition might specifically ask the EU for help if Belarus’s leaders crossed the line in their use of force.

U.N. human rights experts say they have received reports of hundreds of cases of torture, beatings and mistreatment of protesters by police, but Tsikhanouskaya said the protests must remain peaceful.

“I think it is impossible to fight violence and give violence,” she said in a speech at Warsaw University.

Poland, along with Lithuania and Latvia, wants the EU to follow its lead in offering extensive financial and social support to the Belarusian opposition movement, and Morawiecki said it would soon publish an economic plan for Belarus.

Polish officials said they feared Russia could become more assertive in the region if it felt the need to get more involved in putting down unrest in Belarus, a political ally that it regards as a buffer against NATO and the EU.

Tsikhanouskaya said Belarus could not turn away from Russia and must maintain good relations.

Reporting by Alicja Ptak, Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Kevin Liffey