Moscow: Border treaty won't be ratified if Estonia doesn't change conduct

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn.
The Russian Embassy in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Russia will not ratify the border treaty with Estonia as long as Estonia does not change its conduct in regard to Russia, the Russian Embassy in Tallinn said in a social media post on Wednesday morning.

"Let us recall that this January, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov precisely defined the main condition for taking that step — a normal atmosphere free of confrontation must prevail in bilateral relations," the embassy's post read. "Russia has fulfilled its obligations. Russophobic rhetoric by Estonian leadership continues, meanwhile. In such a situation, we cannot speak about moving forward with the ratification of the border treaties."

The publication of the Russian stance by the embassy followed a remark made by President Kersti Kaljulaid to ERR on Tuesday to the effect that she is prepared to visit Moscow and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia has ratified the border treaties.

Estonia continues to wait on Russia

Estonia's then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov signed treaties on the land and maritime borders between Estonia and Russia in May 2005.

The Riigikogu passed the treaties in the following month after adding a preamble to the bill in which it was explained that in ratifying the border treaties, the Riigikogu had in mind that, in accordance with Article 122 of the Constitution, the border treaty would partly change the line of the state border as defined in the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 but would not affect the rest of the treaty and would not define the treatment of any bilateral issues not connected with the border treaties.

Russia, however, noted that it viewed the added preamble as opening the way to future territorial claims and withdrew its signature at the end of June that same year, despite Estonia having denied having territorial claims on Russia on repeated occasions.

Negotiations on the treaty between the two countries resumed in 2013, and the foreign ministers eventually signed the agreements in Moscow on Feb. 18, 2014.

As ERR has previously reported, in fall 2015, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov reached an agreement that the two governments would submit the new border treaties to their respective parliaments for ratification.

On the Estonian side, the Riigikogu did so, where relevant bills passed their first reading in November 2015 already. Per common practice, the treaties would be ratified in both countries' respective parliaments simultaneously after they has also passed their first reading in the State Duma. On the Russian side, however, the Duma had yet to even begin the ratification process.

Russian ambassador blamed Estonia for creating unsuitable atmosphere

BNS reported in July 2016 that Russian Ambassador to Estonia Alexander Petrov was quoted in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya as saying that the ratification of the Estonian-Russian treaties had been hindered by tensions in bilateral relations.

"We have repeatedly told Estonia's representatives that the ratification of the border treaties requires a suitable atmosphere — namely, that the parties refrain from creating tensions," said Petrov. "This hasn't happened so far."

The Russian ambassador cited several instances in which Estonia had purportedly created tension between two neighboring countries, including Estonian border guards turning away a Russian delegation on its way to May 9 events in Tartu that spring as well as several instances in which he was summoned to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the violation of Estonian airspace by Russian aircraft.

"After each such protest, Moscow has forwarded via the Estonian Embassy information which clearly shows that no violation took place," explained the Russian ambassador. "But this has not changed the Estonian side's position."

Petrov also referred to recent Estonian steps, considered unfriendly by Moscow, as hindrances to the ratification of the Estonian-Russian treaties in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax in mid-May as well.

The Riigikogu successfully completed the first reading of the Bill on the Ratification of the State Border Treaty between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation and the Treaty on the Delimitation of Maritime Areas of Narva Bay and the Gulf of Finland between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation on Nov. 25, 2015.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said in October 2016, following the Duma elections in Russia, that the Duma might ratify the border treaties with Estonia before the end of the year. No concrete steps have yet been taken in the Duma to do so, however.

Responding to a question posed by Estonian daily Postimees at a press conference in Moscow in January, Lavrov said that Russia does not consider it possible to ratify the Estonian-Russian border treaty if Estonia does not stop its Russophobic activity.

The treaties must be ratified by the parliaments of both countries, after which they will go into effect 30 days after the exchange of the letters of ratification.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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