Russia turned down bilateral agreement proposal, says Defense Ministry

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Russia has rejected Latvia's proposal for signing of a bilateral agreement about additional confidence-building measures, thus turning down the opportunity to improve transparency and mutual trust between the two countries, the Latvian Defense Ministry said on March 13.

The news follows Russian reports over Latvia declining an invitation from Russia to inspect a major military base not far from the shared border.

"Latvia is interested in long-term, verifiable cooperation based on international principles, but not in one-time activities that may be widely reported by the media but would bring little practical good," Latvia's Defense Ministry said.

Considering Russia's provocative activities near the Latvian border and lack of transparency, it is in Latvia's interests to examine Russia's military capacity in the border areas and to promote transparency in the military aspects, the ministry said.

In order to achieve transparency and predictability in bilateral relations and to smooth out the differences, the representatives of the Latvian and Russian defense ministries met in Riga on December 8, 2016, with Latvia making specific proposals for improving transparency.

On the next day after the meeting Latvia sent to Russia an offer for a bilateral agreement about organizing one additional arms control evaluation visit and an additional inspection in the border areas. But on March 9 this year Russia turned down the offer, showing that it was unwilling to build a transparent long-term relationship, the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

The signing of the agreement proposed by Latvia about additional confidence and security building measures based on the OSCE Vienna Document would alleviate mutual concerns as it would give Latvia and Russia an opportunity to hold consultations and visit military facilities and military exercises in each other's country in the long-term, the ministry said.

By rejecting Latvia's offer, Russia has denied itself an opportunity to visit the Latvian military facilities and has lost a chance to prove transparency and absence of a military threat on its part in the border areas, the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

Latvia will continue monitoring Russia's military activities near its borders, the ministry said.

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