MOSCOW 's Estonian and Russian officials signed a border agreement on Wednesday, capping 10 years of work on demarcating the two nations' land and maritime borders that even included a tiny land-swap.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, signed the document in the Russian capital just 10 days after Estonian President Arnold Ruutel demonstratively decided not to attend the 60th anniversary ceremonies of the end of World War II.
"We are very satisfied that the border accords have been signed after a process that took ten years," Paet told reporters. He said he hopes that the event helps to promote bilateral relations and economic cooperation between Estonia and Russia.
The treaties that were first initialed in 1996 had been ready for signing since 1999.
Paet added that the European Union was ready to hold negotiations with Russia on the topic of human rights both in Russia as well as in the EU.
Lavrov said that the border treaties with Estonia were important for Russia both in terms of security as well as territorial integrity. He voiced hope that signing of the border treaties would serve as an incentive to concluding other treaties between Estonia and Russia both in the social sphere as well as in the spheres of economy and transport.
The two countries agreed to swap equal portions of land 's some 128.6 hectares in all 's to make the border more logical, according to reports in the Estonian press. The areas to be exchanged include a 115.5 hectare boot-shaped piece of Russian territory protruding into Estonia near the southeastern village of Saatse that will become Estonian.
The total area of border lakes to change hands amounts to 11.4 square kilometers. Russia will acquire half of the fairway in the lakes, as well as a passage from Lake Peipsi to Narva River. Estonia, in turn, will obtain lakeside areas close to the Piirissaar Island that are important for local fishermen.
Also, Lavrov said that Russia ready to negotiate with Estonia on the topic of returning the cultural heritage items taken to Russia. At the same time, as the Russian minister said, the situation of the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia should improve, too.