Latvia and Lithuania exchanged accusations after a Latvian government delegation failed to provide satisfactory explanations to Lithuanian leaders in Vilnius concerning Latvia’s deal with Western firms to drill for oil in Baltic waters claimed also by Lithuania. Latvian foreign minister Valdis Birkavs criticized the Lithuanian side for revoking earlier concessions to Latvia regarding the demarcation of the mutual maritime border. Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas publicly endorsed the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s note which had canceled those concessions and reinstated Lithuanian claims to the disputed area, in retaliation for Latvia’s unilateral action. Brazauskas, moreover, encouraged his government to launch a tender for oil drilling rights in the same maritime area. Each country blamed the disagreement on domestic political problems in the other country. (5)
Latvia’s energy minister Juris Ozolins, a leading promoter of Riga’s unilateral action, led the delegation to Vilnius, after President Guntis Ulmanis postponed his planned visit there. Brazauskas and Birkavs, whose initial statements were notably conciliatory, have now raised their tone. The sides are issuing contradictory signals with respect to several possible methods of settling their dispute: bilateral negotiation, international arbitration, or recognition of joint drilling rights in the disputed area, pending a delimitation of their mutual maritime border.
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