Russia bristles at Ukraine's proposals in talks on Azov Sea border

Russia on Monday bristled at Ukraine's proposal to invite other nations to join tense bilateral talks on border delimitation in the Azov Sea, news reports said.

The Ukrainian proposal was "unnecessary and untimely," the ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry's envoy at the talks, Valery Kenyaikin, as saying after the latest round of talks in Moscow.

The talks should continue on the basis of a 2003 agreement on sharing the Azov Sea, while his Ukrainian counterpart pushed for revising it, he said.

Diplomats would not say which nations Ukraine, which is on a pro-Western course, could invite to join the talks.

The 2003 agreement set out terms for Ukraine and Russia to share the Azov Sea and determine the countries' borders in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Azov and Black seas. It declared the Azov Sea common property of the two nations.

Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteiko said after Monday's talks that Kiev wants to revise the agreement to change the status of the Azov Sea so that the border is demarcated in line with international law, the ITAR-Tass said.

Kenyaikin rejected the offer as "political rather than technical" and warned that it could lead to a deadlock in talks, it added.

Russia and Ukraine were long locked in a dispute over the Azov Sea, which has busy shipping routes, rich fishing grounds and prospective oil fields.

The conflict escalated in 2003, when Russia started building a dike from the Russian mainland toward Ukraine's Tuzla Island, located in the Kerch Strait. Ukraine sent troops to the island and Russia eventually stopped construction following tense high-level talks.

After signing the 2003 agreement, the two nations have bickered on how to draw the border and divide its resources, and numerous rounds of talks have failed to score any progress.

Bilateral relations further soured after Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko won the presidency in 2004 on the wave of Orange Revolution protests against election fraud.

Russian-Ukrainian ties remain tense over Ukraine's plans to join NATO and disputes over energy and other issues, reports AP.

O.Ch.