Estonia, Russia discuss Ukraine, regional cooperation, border ratification

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov discussed regional issues, border ratification and Ukraine during a phone call on Friday.

Liimets said: "Estonia and Russia are neighbours and neighbours need to talk. Despite the fact that we have disagreements and our views on many issues differ. In our phone call, I raised the ratification of the border treaty signed by our countries in 2014 as an important bilateral topic, with the current Estonian government has announced its readiness to move forward on this issue. A border treaty that has entered into force would provide crucial security for Estonia and our allies. This concerns both our security as well as the fight against organised crime, drugs and smuggling, and human trafficking. We agreed we must continue consultations."

Both ministers said the cross-border cooperation of Estonia and Russia has been a success story.

"Here, planning and providing input for the new programming period (2021-2027) of cross-border cooperation offers a good opportunity. With this in mind, I proposed boosting environmental and climate cooperation," Liimets said.

After the call, the Russian Embassy in Estonia wrote on Twitter and Facebook that Estonia must not mention the 1920 Treaty of Tartu, which established Estonia's eastern border with Russia, during discussions about the ratification of the two countries' borders. Instead, only an agreement made in 2014 should be referred to.

"Regarding the Russian-Estonian border treaties, the Russian side reiterated its position that, as a prerequisite to their ratification in Russia, Tallinn must fulfil its obligations agreed upon at the time of signing the Treaties in 2014. In particular, Estonia must unequivocally abandon all territorial claims against Russia, as well as any political conditions. The Russian side would like to see the neighbouring country's readiness to create a healthy non-confrontational atmosphere of bilateral relations," the post said.

The message also said Lavrov discussed stateless citizens and issues about the use of the Russian language in Estonia.

The last meeting of the foreign ministers of Estonia and Russia was held in 2015, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Liimets: "Serious concerns" over military build-up in Ukraine

Liimets also voiced Estonia's opinion about recent events in Ukraine and on the country's eastern border.

The miniser said: "I voiced serious concern to my Russian colleague over the military escalation in and around Ukraine. It is important for Russia to meet its international commitments and make efforts to resolve the situation peacefully."

When it comes to international relations, Estonia considers upholding international law crucial, including respect for territorial integrity and human rights, the statement said.

Treaty of Tartu 1920

After difficult negotiations, the peace treaty between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia was signed on February 2, 1920.

The treaty ended the Estonian War of Independence that had lasted for nearly a year and a half, and was one of the first major achievements in the field of international relations for the young Estonian state.

The treaty established Estonia's eastern border, and Soviet Russia recognised the independence of the Republic of Estonia in perpetuity. The instruments of ratification of the treaty were exchanged in Moscow on March 30, 1920 and the treaty entered into force.

When Estonia regained independence in August 1991, it was not within the borders in which it was born in February 1920 as a subject of international law under the Tartu Peace Treaty, and in which it was occupied and unlawfully annexed by the Soviet Union in June 1940.

The topic has recently been raised again after Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said in February that Estonia would again take steps to ratify the border.

ERR News previously republished International Center for Defense and Security's research fellow Kalev Stoicescu's article about the Estonian-Russian which gives an analysis and historical overview of the topic. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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