President Emmanuel Macron is ready to hold talks with Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has requested he act as a mediator in her country's crisis, a French government spokesman said on Monday.
"What's happening in Belarus is a crisis of power, an authoritarian power that is unable to accept the logic of democracy," Gabriel Attal said, adding that Macron would meet Tikhanovskaya "if she asks" during a visit to Lithuania, where she has fled.
Belarus has been in turmoil since protests broke out last month after Tikhanovskaya lost to President Alexander Lukashenko in a vote she denounced as rigged.
The opposition leader, whose blogger husband remains in a Belarus prison, also called for EU sanctions against businesses that support Lukashenko's government.
"The protests are not going to stop," Tikhanovskaya told AFP in an interview. "People will not accept the regime under which they have lived all these years."
Ahead of Macron's visit to Vilnius, he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper it was "clear that Lukashenko has to go", adding that he had been impressed by the courage of the protesters.
"They know the risks they are taking by demonstrating every weekend, and yet, they are pushing forward with the movement to make democracy come alive in this country that has been deprived of it for so long," he said.