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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Border Pact Signed After 16 Years

Itar-TassAigar Kalvitis exchanging documents with Mikhail Fradkov during a signing ceremony for the border treaty Tuesday.
Russia and Latvia signed a deal on Tuesday demarcating a frontier they have argued over since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, clearing up one of the European Union's last lingering border disputes.

"The signing of this agreement ... will help strengthen relations not only between our two countries but within the European continent as a whole," Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said.

Aigar Kalvitis, the first Latvian prime minister to visit Russia in 16 years, said the treaty would help smooth overall relations.

"For Latvia, like all countries in the European Union, it is very important to build stable, pragmatic relations with Russia," he said.

In Brussels, both the EU and NATO welcomed the deal.

"We hope the progress that has been made in reaching agreement between Latvia and Russia can at least signal the way to agreement between the Russian side and the Estonian side," said European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin.

Latvia was one of the first states to split from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and pulled further out of Russia's orbit by joining the EU and NATO in 2004.

Many Latvians view the half-century of Soviet rule as occupation. Many Russians still see the Baltic states as in Russia's historic sphere of influence. Fifteen years after separation, suspicions linger on both sides.

Recent disputes include arguments over Russian oil export transit routes through Latvia, the treatment of ethnic Russians in Latvia and Riga's prosecution of former KGB agents.

A handful of EU states still have to resolve border disputes with non-EU neighbors. These include Slovenia with Croatia, Spain with Morocco and Estonia with Russia.