Senior Latvian and Estonian diplomats failed to advance toward a solution in talks held last week in Stockholm on demarcating the Latvian-Estonian border in the Gulf of Riga. The talks "took place in a normal, calm atmosphere," but did not bridge the differences between Estonia, which seeks recognition of an existing demarcation line as an international border, and Latvia, which maintains that Estonia has drawn that line unilaterally and that the Gulf of Riga is an "inland water" where no border can be drawn under international law. A date or venue for follow-up talks were not announced. Latvia favors international arbitration if bilateral negotiations fail. (14)
The differences center on an area around the Estonian islands of Kihnu and Ruhnu. Both countries are anxious to avoid a repetition of last year’s "sardine war" in which the Estonian coast guard intercepted Latvian fishing boats in rich fishing grounds near the islands. Delegations of the two countries met repeatedly in the past three years to discuss the border issue without publicity, in contrast to the open dispute between Latvia and Lithuania over their maritime border. At stake in the latter dispute is a continental shelf area believed rich in oil deposits where Latvia has unilaterally awarded a drilling concession to the Amoco (U.S.)-Opab (Sweden) joint venture. Latvian-Lithuanian talks, due since last autumn, were canceled because of prolonged government crises in the two countries. At the recent meeting of Baltic foreign ministers, Lithuania proposed resuming the talks, possibly under Estonian or Swedish mediation, but Latvia seeks a bilateral solution. Latvia’s position is clouded by differences between the Foreign Ministry, which favors postponing ratification of the drilling concession pending a compromise with Lithuania, and the Economics and Energy Ministries, which want to speed up ratification and start drilling. (15)
Russia Publicly Opposes Georgian Terms for Peacekeeping Forces in Abkhazia.