Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 104

The presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania met yesterday in Tallinn to discuss security and cooperation in the region between the Baltic and the Black seas. Aleksander Kwasniewski, Leonid Kuchma, Lennart Meri, Guntis Ulmanis, and Algirdas Brazauskas asserted in a joint communique their countries’ sovereign right to protect their security through means of their choice, including accession to alliances. Emphasizing the indivisibility of European and regional security, the five presidents called on NATO to remain open to all countries that meet admission criteria following the first round of the alliance’s enlargement. The five countries will work together to help create a stable and secure Europe and to enhance the effectiveness of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, the joint communique announced. It also reaffirmed these countries’ goal of joining the European Union in due course.

While welcoming yesterday’s signing of the NATO-Russia cooperation agreement, the presidents called the NATO-Ukraine agreement still under negotiation "a key factor of stability in Europe," and they warned against the risk of "leaving the region without security guarantees for an indefinite period." Estonian foreign minister Toomas Ilves, who attended the presidents’ discussions, said afterward that the five countries intend to continue consultations on regional security issues in the future. A ministry statement introducing the presidents’ meeting pointed out that the five countries share a concern to avoid the formation of a "gray zone" of lesser security in this region.

The discussion on transit and trade between the northern and southern coasts of Europe highlighted the absence of Belarus from this meeting. The five presidents found the situation in Belarus a cause for concern and agreed to work with that country in seeking a solution. Belarus, which signed a union treaty with Russia last week, separates Ukraine from the region’s northern tier. (BNS, Ukrinform, May 27)

On May 26 the three Baltic presidents had met in Estonia and reaffirmed in a joint communique their countries’ sovereign right to join NATO. The presidents were responding to official Russian warnings that Moscow would reappraise its newly established relationship with NATO in the event of Baltic accession to the alliance in the future. (BNS, Itar-Tass, May 26)

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