Foreign minister: We can initiate ratifying Estonia-Russia border treaty

Eva-Maria Liimets.
Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said Estonia should take the first step in ratifying the Estonian-Russian border treaty.

"I am convinced that it is still in Estonia's interests that the Estonia and Russia ratify the signed border treaty and the current government is ready to move forward in the question," Liimets said on Tuesday. Several hours later, she repeated the same to ERR during a long-form interview which will be published later this week.

"Yes, I consider it very important because it is definitely an important aspect, which helps to strengthen Estonia's security. A specific border, more secure security," she said, justifying the importance of the unratified Estonian-Russian border signed in 2014.

How can the Estonian government move forward with it? "Will from both sides is needed and the contract has to be ratified in both parliaments. To hope for an improvement, Estonia can take the first step and say that Estonia has the willingness," she explained.

"The first step from Estonia is that we can say that we are ready to ratify. Moving forward, it is important that the process works alongside the Russian side. Which will be their answer, I am not speculating today, I'm definitely hoping that they are also interested in finishing off the border agreement. But, considering their Duma elections are coming up, these developments could happen in one direction or another," Liimets said.

She agreed that in internal politics, the border contract with Russia is a sensitive matter. "However, I hope that Estonian security is such an important topic that common ground will be found," Liimets said.

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 Riigikogu foreign committee's vice-chairman Jüri Luik (Isamaa), former foreign and defense minister, said on Wednesday (February 17) that he does not know whether Estonia's new government is planning a diplomatic initiative or if it will stay as a call from the minister.

Luik said Estonia has always been in the position that the border treaty should be ratified but there has not been any movement on the Russian side.

"It makes me a little suspicious when the border treaty's opponents are emphasizing that the border treaty is mainly beneficial for Russia. Then it could be asked why haven't Russians quickly ratified it?" Luik said.

At the same time, he did not think Estonia ratifying the border treaty unilaterally and then demanding Russia to do the same is reasonable.

"There are certain rules in diplomacy and it is not how it's done. If there's a complicated contract, then the solution that both demonstrate their readiness is logical," Luik said.

Last year, both former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and former prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said it was unlikely progress would be made to ratify the border in the coming years.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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