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Baltic States: Three Presidents Stress Cooperation At Riga Summit

By Peter Zvagulis

Riga, 27 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia put aside their differences yesterday during a summit meeting in the Latvian capital Riga, and jointly stressed the importance of cooperation.

The three leaders issued a statement affirming their commitment to working together for stability, security and economic development throughout the region. The statement said free trade, joint customs and border controls would play key roles in theeconomic development of the three states.

The three Baltic leaders also called for cooperation in international relations, reaffirming their commitment to joining European and North Atlantic structures, such as NATO. They called on NATO to set up a framework of consultations with prospective members and urged the alliance to make its planned enlargement more "transparent, " to allay concerns on the part of current and prospective members.

In a related development, a senior U.S. diplomat yesterday advised Latvia and Estonia to work harder at integrating their ethnic Russian communities, if they want to join NATO. U.S. ambassador to Sweden Thomas Siebert said "Estonia and Latvia have taken laudable concrete steps" already, but he said "more work needs to be done."