Lukashenko must respect fundamental rights, says NATO chief

FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks as he chairs a NATO defence ministers meeting via teleconference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday to respect fundamental rights and said it would be unjustified to use the defence alliance as an excuse for a crackdown.

“The regime in Minsk must demonstrate full respect for fundamental rights including freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest,” said Stoltenberg, who is in Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“NATO has no military build up in the region so any attempt to use that an excuse to crack down on peaceful protesters is absolutely unjustified,” he said, adding it was up to the people of Belarus to decide their future.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Maria Sheahan