RIGA - Coalitional leaders on Jan. 16 decided to pull a controversial declaration from a draft border treaty agreement with Russia, paving the way for a deal to be signed in the near future.
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told journalists that the government agreed that a declaration referring to a 1920 treaty between Russia and Latvia could be discarded and instead Latvia could cite the 1991 Constitution as the basis for independence.
In May 2005, the clause referring to the 1920 treaty was added by Latvia at the last moment, eliciting strong condemnation from Russia and torpedoing the signing of a long-awaited border deal.
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga had hoped to sign the agreement during her visit to Moscow to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Latvia said the declaration had to be added for the sake of legal continuity, as the modern Latvian state is based on independence acquired after World War I, but Russia perceived the move as an attempt to claim a disputed rump of land that is now part of Russia. The district, Pytalovo, was annexed to Russia after World War II.
After learning of the declaration, Russian President Vladimir Putin quipped Latvia was more likely to receive a "dead donkey's ears" than any land from Russia.
Now, however, Latvia is ready to yank the declaration. As Kalvitis explained, Russia has recognized Latvia's independence on the basis of the 1991 Constitution, and that is sufficient.
"Such a solution, strengthening historical continuity, is acceptable and supported by the government, foreign experts, lawyers and other specialists," said Kalvitis.
The draft document will be in two parts: the first citing Latvia's sovereignty based on the 1991 Constitition, and the second a proposed border treaty that was compiled in 1997.
Kalvitis said that Parliament will have to work out the details of the first part of the resuscitated border treaty, which ultimately will give the document more weight than the one put together two years since the declaration referring to the 1920 treaty had been penned by the government.
If the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament manage to work out a deal, then it is likely Latvia and Russia will finally sign a border agreement in the near future.
In December, Russian Ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kalyuzhny said that an agreement could be signed as early as February.
"These things have been waiting for 15 years, there has been an 'ice age' and only in the past two years some progress is observed," he said during a lecture at the University of Latvia.