Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 41

Aivars Vovers, Latvia’s chief delegate to the negotiations on a border agreement with Russia, announced yesterday that Latvia agreed to major concessions in the February 24-25 round of talks in Moscow. Riga has dropped the issue of the Abrene district (renamed Pytalovo), annexed to the Russian Federation following the Soviet occupation of Latvia. It has also given up compensation claims on behalf of that district’s expropriated residents, and has renounced the demand to include a reference to the legal validity of the 1920 Russian-Latvian peace treaty in this border agreement. The signing of the agreement is nevertheless far from imminent, because the sides must still work on delimiting the border on topographic maps.

The Latvian delegation had acted on presidential and Foreign Ministry instructions. The parliament’s Foreign Policy Commission chairman, Indulis Berzins, yesterday termed the concessions realistic and unavoidable, considering Moscow’s intransigence and its tactic of blocking the border negotiations in order to drive a wedge between Latvia and the West. A continuing deadlock in the border negotiations "would play into the hands of those politicians unwilling to see Latvia in the European Union and NATO," Berzins observed. (BNS, February 26)

Latvia’s experience thus far parallels that of Estonia, which agreed to similar concessions last November. In Estonia’s case, Moscow is also dragging out the work on topographic maps in order to delay the signing of the agreement. Moreover, Russia now links the ultimate signing of the agreement to changes in the status of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia. The two Baltic states, while rejecting that linkage, are demonstrating maximum flexibility on the issues directly connected with the border.

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