Belarus is working to repatriate migrants massed on its border with Poland, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday, apparently aiming to defuse the crisis ahead of an EU meeting over new sanctions on the ex-Soviet country. Migrants have been trying to cross from Belarus into EU member Poland for months, but tensions soared last week as coordinated efforts to cross were rebuffed by Polish border guards. The EU accuses Belarus of sending the migrants to the border as retribution for earlier sanctions. Belarusian TV showed hundreds of migrants, mostly from the Middle East and including dozens of children, crowded at a shut border crossing on Monday at the Polish village of Kuznica, after having spent the night huddling around burning logs in a makeshift camp. Lukashenko’s apparent olive branch came as foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc were meeting on Monday to adopt new penalties over the crisis. He said Belarus did not want the border situation to escalate into a “conflict” and that it was working to send home the several thousand migrants camping on its border with Poland. “Active work is underway in this area, to convince people — please, return home. But nobody wants to go back,” Lukashenko said, as quoted by state news agency Belta. At the EU meeting on Monday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said he had “no reason” to believe Lukashenko. The Belarusian leader also suggested that Minsk could take up an offer by officials in Munich to ferry the migrants via its state-run airline Belavia to Germany if Poland does not provide a “humanitarian corridor”. “We will send them to Munich by our own planes, if necessary,” Lukashenko said. However, the Polish defence ministry said later on Monday that Belarusian forces were bringing groups of migrants to the Kuznica border crossing. Belarus’s state border committee rejected the accusation, saying the migrants had “self-organised” and that Belarusian border guards were present to “ensure safety.” Lukashenko denies accusations that he has organised the migrants on the border, saying Monday the situation was proving “expensive” for his country.