European leaders will attempt to end a stalemate Thursday that is preventing them from placing economic sanctions on top Belarusian officials accused of rigging the presidential election and violently cracking down on peaceful protesters following the August vote.
At a two-day meeting in Brussels, EU leaders are expected to confront Cyprus, one of the EU's smallest members, which is vetoing EU attempts to sanction dozens of officials and hold a new election.
US Held Back on Belarus Sanctions, Hoping for Joint Move With EU EU vowed in August to impose sanctions on Belarus for alleged election fraud and for human rights abuses since, but Cyprus, has stood in the way
Cyprus also is demanding the EU take action against Turkey for searching for energy sources in disputed waters off the Cyprus coast.
European foreign ministers failed to end the standoff last month, prompting a warning from diplomats and EU policy chief Josep Borrell that the 27-nation bloc's inability to reach a foreign policy agreement could weaken its ability to address issues of concern in broader Europe and the Mediterranean.
"If we are not able to do that, then I understand perfectly that our credibility is at stake," Borrell said.
Britain and Canada already have imposed retaliatory measures on Belarus in a show of support for pro-democracy protesters, but EU decisions are made unanimously.
Draft conclusions prepared for the summit have EU leaders condemning violence against peaceful protesters, rejecting the election results that extended Alexander Lukashenko's presidency to a sixth term, and imposing "restrictive measures" without delay.
Lukashenko's post-election crackdown has resulted in the arrest of more than 12,000 people who participated in mass demonstrations that erupted after he claimed victory in an election that opponents allege was stolen. It has been opposed by Western nations and the EU. Lukashenko has denied the election was fixed.