Although Lithuania and Latvia signed a maritime boundary treaty 20 years ago, only Lithuania has ratified it. Latvia wants to explore an oil field in the Baltic Sea before finalising the agreement.
The Latvian government has proposed signing an economic treaty on exploring oil resources in the field that falls largely within Lithuania's territorial waters first and ratifying the boundary treaty then. Lithuania has refused.
Jurga Lazauskienė of the Lithuanian Geological Survey says that the field might contain some 8 million tons of oil of which 2-3 million tons could be extractable.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has called the situation paradoxical.
He says that Latvia wanted to find a contractor to explore the field a few years ago, something that “should not happen” without an agreement between Vilnius and Riga.
“Since this is a common zone, we should explore it together, but do it at the time agreed on in a treaty.” Linkevičius told LRT.
Former Latvian MP Romualds Ražuks says that the Latvian parliament could ratify the maritime boundary treaty if Lithuanians offered an economic treaty simultaneously.
Officially, Vilnius and Riga say the situation does not affect bilateral relations in other areas.
Latvia and Lithuania signed a maritime boundary treaty in 1999 and the Lithuanian parliament ratified it soon afterwards. The revised boundary increased Lithuania's territorial waters by about 10,000 square kilometres.