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    URGENT LATVIAN-RUSSIAN PROBLEMS DISCUSSED BY DIPLOMATS OF TWO COUNTRIES

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    RIGA, February 27 (RIA Novosti correspondent Anatoly Baranovsky) - Urgent problems of Latvian-Russian relations and issues related to the forthcoming entry of Latvia into the European Union and NATO were discussed on Friday in the course of political consultations in Riga held between representatives of foreign ministries of the two countries.

    At the press conference in the wake of the consultations Maris Riekstins, state secretary of the Latvian foreign ministry described them as "traditional". According to him, the meeting was held in "a business-like and constructive atmosphere".

    The secretary of state of the Latvian foreign ministry pointed out that the parties "came to the common understanding of the necessity to extend from May 1 provisions of the EU-Russia agreement on partnership and cooperation to cover all 10 countries, which are joining the European Union".

    Nevertheless deputy Russian foreign minister Vladimir Chizhov explained that it was "not an independent technical procedure but a subject for negotiations already started in Brussels". He was hopeful that they would be successfully completed and from May 1 the agreement would "fully" cover all EU members.

    In reply to the question regarding the status of the inter-governmental agreement on the border between Russia and Latvia initialed back in 1997 Chizhov stated that "the issue of execution and initialing of the agreement on the border with Latvia as well as a similar agreement with Estonia was monitored by the Russian side." Nevertheless he indicated that "successful resolution of that issue required creation of the appropriate atmosphere in relations between the countries which at the moment is unfortunately not there." In his turn Maris Riekstins spoke against the issue of the border agreement execution being related to other issues. In particular, he wished "Moscow noted significant progress in the situation with the Russian-speaking population of Latvia in the course of the last 13 years." In relation to that issue Vladimir Chizhov categorically refuted accusations made against the Russian foreign ministry in relation to organization of actions in Latvia to protest transition of Russian schools to a system of partial tuition in the Latvian language. Though he pointed out that "Russia was perceiving with concern certain steps of Latvian authorities leading towards radicalization of Russian-speaking people, especially the younger generation." In the opinion of the Russian deputy foreign minister, "the only way to overcome that problem was through a dialogue, in this case a dialogue between authorities and all residents of the country, including Russian-speaking ones".

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