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Latvia: Sea Border With Lithuania At Issue; Oil Agreements Debated

Riga, 29 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Latvian Parliament is expected today to debate the ratification of agreements to explore for oil in a disputed sea border zone with Lithuania.

The agreements are with American oil giant Amoco and the Swedish company Oljeprospektering AB.

Latvia and Lithuania have disagreed over where to draw their common sea border since regaining independence in 1991. Vilnius has asked that the oil accords not be ratified until the border dispute is settled. It says that such ratification would violate Lithuania's sovereignty.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Pavilas Gylys told RFE/RL that Vilnius could unilaterally delimit its own economic zone and border if Latvia lets the firms search for oil before the two nations agree on a common sea border.

Lithuania says it will respond to a Latvian proposal for the delimiting of maritime borders in the next round of talks on the issue, which could take place in the second week of September.

Latvia's Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins told the Baltic News Service yesterday that Lithuania has not submitted any proposals in the current round of talks, which began Tuesday. Riekstin said he harbors no illusions for a quick resolution to this dispute.

But, he said, "I still have not lost my optimism."