PACE President René van der Linden today started a two-day visit to Belarus with a view to encouraging democratic developments and promoting Council of Europe values in the country. The President met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Vladimir Konoplev, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Martynov, and with members of the opposition, including Akexander Milinkievich. René van der Linden called for the release of all those imprisoned for allegedly political reasons, and called for dialogue based on the implementation of Council of Europe values such as the freedom of expression, the organisation of free and fair elections and the abolition of the death penalty. He offered to his counterparts the use of Council of Europe instruments, such as the Venice Commission and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The PACE President also called for the intensification of students exchanges between Belarus and other European countries, and supported the reform of visa procedure that would make them more straightforward.