EU pressure on migrants' countries could work better than new Belarus sanctions -official

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A Polish soldier patrols Poland/Belarus border in Kuznica, Poland, in this photograph released by the Polish Defence Ministry

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Pressure on countries from which migrants fly to Belarus in hope of entering the European Union, and on airlines that take them, could do more to end the migration crisis on the Belarus-EU border than new sanctions on Minsk, a senior EU official said.

"More sanctions against Belarus...I am not convinced they are the most effective. In these circumstances we must make clear to third parties involved, even if not involved consciously, that they are participating in something that is not acceptable and they must stop," the official said.

EU ambassadors agreed on Wednesday that Belarus' decision to encourage Middle Eastern migrants to enter Poland can legally be considered a "hybrid attack" that serves as a basis for a new round of sanctions Russia and NATO weigh in as crisis mounts on Belarus-Poland border on Minsk, diplomats said.

The sanctions package will now be discussed by experts on Thursday with the possibility of approval on Monday when EU foreign ministers hold a scheduled meeting in Brussels.

But the EU official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said pressuring countries from which migrants are coming, like Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, United Arab Emirates or Iraq, could be more effective, giving the example of the UAE.

"We have a visa-free policy with the Emirates and companies there are part of this system (of transporting migrants to Belarus)," the official said.

"We must tell the authorities there to stop this, or, if not, we should think about putting on hold the visa policy with the Emirates."

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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