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RIGA - Relations between Latvia and Russia are not easy but it is a diplomat’s mission to talk and seek common ground, Latvian ambassador-designate to Russia Maris Riekstins said in an interview with LNT commercial TV channel this morning.
Riekstins noted that the generally tense relations between the West and Russia, sanctions and other issues are also creating a certain background to the bilateral relations. Yet the fact that we are neighbor countries creates the necessity for us to seek dialogue, said Riekstins.
Latvia is interested in many issues, the diplomat said, adding that his priority as Latvia’s next ambassador to Russia will be the implementation of the agreements reached this week by the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission in Riga. The meeting, in Riekstins’ view, resulted in a number of positive decisions.
It has also been agreed to call a meeting the so-called humanistic workgroup by the end of this year to address issues concerned with researching the two countries' history, Riekstins said.
One has to realize that the history of Latvian-Russian relations is extremely complex and requires careful analysis, Riekstins said. “As we look into the future, it is necessary to figure out what has been good and what has been not so good in our relations,” Riekstins said.
Commenting on Zapad 2017, the joint military exercise Belarus and Russia are planning to stage in September, the diplomat said that Latvia obviously respects each country’s rights to hone its defense capabilities but it is also necessary to ensure sufficient transparency.
Riekstins also believes that it will not be possible to avoid difficult issues like the annexation of Crimea, as Russia is trying to convince the West that “this is a done deal and there is no point in raising this question again”, a position that cannot be accepted by the West.
The diplomat noted that Russia is a very serious global player and Latvia’s largest neighbor which is among Latvia’s top five trade partners. Last year, Russian exports to Latvia totaled around EUR 1 billion, while Latvia exported around EUR 700 million worth of goods to Russia. Also, Russians make up the second largest group of foreign tourists in Latvia, Riekstins said.
He added, however, that to officially become Latvian ambassador to Russia, he has to present his letters of credence to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the president of Russia.