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Brussels avoids taking sides in Estonia-Russia border dispute-MP


MOSCOW, September 2 (RIA Novosti, Natalia Belova) - The European Union is not taking sides in the Estonia-Russia border dispute, but wants to see it resolved as soon as possible, a senior member of the lower chamber of Russia's parliament said Friday.

Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the State Duma's international affairs committee, told RIA Novosti that the EU was not biased in favor of Estonia as a member state and that it respected Russia's position.

"Clearly, Russia's position on the issue is met with understanding in the European Union, whatever Tallinn might say," Kosachev said. "No consolidated position in favor of Estonia exists."

The Estonia-Russia technical border agreement was initialed in 1996, but both countries only signed it in May this year. The Estonian parliament ratified the agreement in June, but modified its text to incorporate provisions of the 1920 Tartu peace treaty, claiming parts of the Narva region for Estonia, and to present the country's annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940 as an act of aggression.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by saying the move "creates a false context for the interpretation and implementation" of the agreement and that ratifying it would undermine Russia's national interests. On September 1, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Russia's withdrawal from the accord.

Commenting on the move, Kosachev said this was the only legal option available to Russia and that otherwise it would have found itself under increased pressure from both Estonia and the European Union. As a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Estonia must implement the strict Schengen border rules.

Kosachev said, however, that if Estonia showed willingness to compromise, Russia could meet it halfway and that the sides now needed to draft a new border agreement, one that was mindful of Russian concerns.

Commenting on Estonia's efforts to dissuade the EU from relaxing entry rules for Russian travelers, Kosachev described them as "an unscrupulous attempt... to draw the European Union into the settlement of a bilateral problem" and said that both Russia and EU nations would stand to lose from such an uncompromising approach.

"We've been hearing from [the authorities in] Estonia all along that the European Union has thrown its weight firmly behind them. But that's just wishful thinking," he said.

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