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    IVANOV: PROVISION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES' RIGHTS TO OPEN BROAD VISTAS FOR COOPERATION OF RUSSIA AND LATVIA

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    MOSCOW, March 1, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Real progress in ensuring the ethnic minorities' rights would undoubtedly open broad vistas for mutually advantageous cooperation between Russia and Latvia. This is disclosed in the article by Russia's acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov European Standards Must Be Single for All published in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper of Sweden on Monday.

    Ivanov stressed that "In Moscow they are ready for this." "Russia always came out and is coming out for materializing the potential of good-neighborliness objectively existing in our relations with the Baltic Sates. We are open for a constructive dialogue on all questions of the bilateral character. We would very much like to count on the pragmatic forces in Riga coming to understand that time is ripe to switch from declarations over to practical deeds," he said.

    Ivanov also expressed his hope that "the EU and NATO member states will display the same approach of principle in this question with which they, for instance, made efforts to bring the legislation of the other countries - candidates from Eastern and Central Europe in line with the European standards of ethnic minorities' rights." Ivanov stressed that "the future of united democratic Europe is incompatible with double standards." At the same time, the problem of Latvia's switching over to a new system of education persists. "The corresponding law, adopted by Latvia's Saeima in February 2004, is aimed at further curtailing Russian-language education, lowering its quality, and hence making Russian young people less competitive," Ivanov noted.

    He pointed out that "evidently, in such a form it can only cause new social distinctions and conflicts. Not only in Russia they pay attention to this danger. Responsible teachers and sociologists in Latvia itself, as well as experts of the respective international organizations have long been speaking of it with grave concern." "I think that Russia, as well as other democratic countries, is entitled to reckon on Latvia's authorities not resorting to discriminative measures in this question but following the positive experience amassed by Europe," Ivanov noted.

    According to him, "Russia repeatedly addressed the respective international organizations, as well as the European Union and NATO at diverse levels calling upon them to give proper attention to the conflict situation in the humanitarian sphere existing in Latvia." "They assured us that it would all come right in the end after Latvia enters the EU and NATO. We would very much like to believe this but, frankly speaking, it is difficult to believe it, since only a few months remain before the entry but no positive signals have come from Riga so far," Ivanov noted.

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