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Russia ready to sign Baltic border treaties free of demands

MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will sign border treaties with Latvia and Estonia as soon as the two Baltic states withdraw political demands, a Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

Talks on border treaties between Russia and the two countries have stalled over territorial issues inserted into new versions of agreements by Estonia and Latvia, and the two countries' claims for compensation over what they term the Soviet "occupation."

Pavel Kuznetsov, head of a ministry's department for European affairs, said it was not Russia's fault that the issue of signing a border treaty, in particular with Estonia, was still open. "We are ready to sign a document any moment. The question is Estonia's willingness to start talks," he said.

The Russian and Estonian foreign ministers signed treaties on common borders on May 18, 2005, and the Estonian parliament ratified the documents on June 20, but with additional demands linked to the 1920 peace treaty between Soviet Russia and Estonia. On September 6, Russia notified Estonia that it was revoking its signature from the treaties because the 1920 document was no longer valid.

Kuznetsov said the issue could be resolved in days.

"We proceed from the premise that a new border treaty will not contain any political 'snags'," he said.

And a Latvian-Russian border treaty dating back to 1997 remains unsigned and unratified. Latvian politicians have looked to link the border settlement to a declaration from Russia that would admit Soviet aggression during the World War II and other issues.

Kuznetsov said Russia's stance on the issue had not changed.

"We are ready to sign this document any moment if Latvia renounces the declaration of April 2005, which is unacceptable for us."

Latvia has included a unilateral explanatory declaration to the draft border treaty, which allows it to claim Russian territory - the Pytalovo district in the Pskov Region - which was part of Latvia before World War II and was transferred to Russia in 1944.

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