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    PUTIN SIGNS LAW ON RATIFICATION OF RUSSO-UKRAINIAN AZOV COOPERATION TREATY

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin has signed into law the federal bill "On Ratification of the Treaty between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on Cooperation in Using the Azov Sea and the Strait of Kerch," the Kremlin press service reports.

    The Russo-Ukrainian Treaty on Cooperation in Using the Azov Sea and the Strait of Kerch, which was signed in the Crimean city of Kerch on December 24, 2003, creates a foundation for subsequent elaboration of mutually acceptable documents on all aspects of the legal status of the Azov sea area and joint activity there of Russia and Ukraine.

    Of fundamental importance to Russia are the provisions assigning inland sea status to the Azov Sea area, banning warships of third countries from coming in without Russian and Ukrainian authorization, recognizing the need to preserve the area as an integral economic and natural complex, to be used in Russia's and Ukraine's national interest, and declaring free navigation for warships and mercantile vessels of the two signatory nations.

    Under the accord, all contentious issues related to the use of the Azov Sea area shall be settled through negotiations. This will limit the possibility of unilateral actions on the part of Ukraine, including in border demarcation.

    The treaty provides for the partition of the Azov Sea by a negotiated agreement, but foresees no partition for the Strait of Kerch.

    The treaty sets forth guidelines for joint activities in the area, primarily fishing and navigation.

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