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Russia says will ratify border treaty if Estonia drops territorial claims

Estonian - Russian border in Vasknarva,
Estonian - Russian border in Vasknarva, Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Russia wants Estonia to relinquish its territorial claims before moving forward with the ratification of the border treaty between the two countries, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

"We expect our Estonian partners to abide by their commitments on ratification, including the abandonment of any political additions," said Sergey Belyaev, Director of the Second European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in an interview with RIA Novosti .

Belyaev said Russia already fully fulfils the condition to waive territorial demands on the other party, which cannot be said about Estonia. "The political-informative backdrop against Russia has become more negative. Key government ministers, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and Interior Minister Martin Helme, have publicly made territorial claims to our country, [by] referring to the inoperative 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty," the Russian diplomat said.

"The border treaty had already been signed in 2005, but Russia's signature on the treaty had to be withdrawn because the Estonian parliament introduced a series of political formulations into the ratification law, which referred to the Tartu Peace Treaty, which is no longer in force and which in essence imposes territorial demands on the Russian Federation," said Belyaev.

The Russian representative said the Estonian parliament has to pass two readings when ratifying international treaties, only one reading is needed in the Russian State Duma. The previous composition of the Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Border Treaty, but after the election in 2019 it was dropped and the ratification process must now be restarted.

"It is clear that Russia must be sure that ratification will not bring any unexpected events, that there will be no repetition of the situation in 2005. We must be clear that Estonia will not impose any additional conditions or political additions to the agreement," Belyaev said.

Ratification at the Riigikogu of a treaty on Estonia's eastern border with the Russian Federation dates back to 2005. Many of the holdups reportedly come from the Russian side, with the Russian parliament, the Duma, playing a key role, amid accusations that Estonia is engaging in ''Russophobia''.

The 1920 Treaty of Tartu signed between the newly-independent Estonian Republic, and the fledgling Soviet Russian state, contained a border demarcation which includes territory now in the Russian Federation, beyond the south-eastern border of present-day Estonia and including the former Estonian town of Petseri, now Pechory, in Russia.

When Estonia became independent in 1991, following the occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union during and after World War II, the border looked somewhat different from how it had in the Tartu treaty.

The current coalition does not have a unified view on the ratification, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said in May.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said, also in May, the border ratification was contingent on a recognition of the Tartu treaty by Russia.

But EKRE MP, Ruuben Kaalep, told ERR that the coalition agreement signed by the three parties included a clause which would put the treaty ratification on hold, something which Enn Eesmaa (Centre), chair of the foreign affairs committee, said was news to him.

When asked about how Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond to President Kersti Kaljulaid's invitation to attend the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in Tartu next summer, Belyaev said: "I am confident that the decision will be made on the basis of the President's work schedule and the general atmosphere of Russian-Estonian relations."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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