- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

MOSCOW (Agence France-Presse) Russia's senate wants the United States to renegotiate a 12-year-old accord demarcating the boundary between the two countries in the Bering and Chukotka seas, a senior lawmaker said yesterday.

Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the so-called Baker-Shevardnadze agreement was too generous to Washington, and that it was important for bilateral relations that the issue be resolved.

"We have raised this problem in order to settle it at a practical level taking into account the national interests of both countries," said Mr. Margelov, who leads a working group charged with revising the 1990 agreement.

The Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying that a successful renegotiation of the deal "will stop it being fanned for political purposes in the future."

Then-Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who is now president of Georgia, and the U.S. secretary of state at the time, James Baker, signed the document in Washington in 1990.

The Soviet Union placed under U.S. jurisdiction part of the area of the Bering Strait and of the Chukotka Sea, confirming in exchange its jurisdiction over some other areas of the Chukotka Sea.

However, this varied from the historical sea demarcation line, fixed in 1867, when Russia sold Alaska to the United States. Washington ratified the agreement in 1991, but Russia has still not done so.

The United States is making full use of the agreement, but it has not legally taken effect for Russia.

As a result, Russian ships are barred from a 200-mile zone transferred to U.S. jurisdiction, but Washington is not allotting to Russia compensation quotas for fishing and marine resources stipulated under the accord.

Russia annually loses as much as $200 million on Alaskan pollack alone, according to Itar-Tass.

The Russian upper house is to draw up an address to the U.S. Senate this month, urging joint action to resolve the problem.

However, in case of a U.S. refusal to compromise, Russia has a good chance to prove in court the invalidity of Mr. Shevardnadze's signature, said the chairman of the senate committee for the Russian North, Alexander Nazarov.

"This is a fallback option," Itar-Tass quoted Mr. Nazarov as saying.

Alexander Yakovenko, the official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, declined to comment on the lawmakers' initiative but pointed out that an expert government committee had concluded in 1997 that the 1990 treaty was in line with Russian interests.

Mr. Yakovenko said the important thing was to resolve the issue of compensation quotas that Russia should be receiving.

"The U.S. side has been given our proposal for an agreement on this matter, which will be examined at a meeting this September of the intergovernmental fisheries commission," Mr. Yakovenko said in a faxed statement.

A small part of the Bering Sea is considered to be international waters, while the rest is split between U.S. and Russian territorial waters.


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