Belarus economy minister: We will boost economic ties to West if Ukraine conflict drags on

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Belarus' economy minister says his country will strengthen its economic ties to the West if the conflict in Ukraine rumbles on.

Nikolai Snopkov told The Associated Press that continued fighting between Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainian military "will drag Belarus to cooperate more with the Western countries."

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Snopkov spoke to the AP on Wednesday ahead of an investment conference in London.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whose government long has been targeted by U.S. and EU economic and travel sanctions over its crackdown on opposition and independent media, has managed to improve his credentials in the West thanks to hosting Ukrainian peace talks that produced a fragile cease-fire deal.

Friday's investment conference is part of a wider effort by his government to raise foreign interest in Belarus' largely state-controlled economy.