Ukraine Refuses to Discuss Tuzla Island Ownership with Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that the Tuzla Island is an inseparable part of Ukraine's territory and its ownership cannot be discussed in talks with Russia.

Dmitrey Svistkov, deputy director of the press department of the ministry, was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying that Ukraine was surprised at the comments of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the issue.

Sea of Azov

Svistkov said according to an accord on joint exploration of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, Russia has for several times during bilateral talks recognized Ukraine's ownership of the island.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a statement that the issue of the ownership of the Tuzla Island should be solved after both sides resolve all the demarcation issues on the Azov Sea, the Kerch Strait and the Black Sea.

Also on Wednesday, the third round of border negotiations of 2005 between Ukraine and Russia ended, with Russia declaring again recognition of Ukraine's ownership of the Tuzla Island.

Ukraine and Russia have been at odds over the border demarcation of the Kerch Strait after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union.

Tensions began to run high on Sept. 29, 2003, when Russia started to build a dike stretching from its southern mainland toward the Tuzla Island near the frontier with Ukraine on the Kerch Strait.

The crisis ended after Russia suspended the dam project and Ukraine agreed to withdraw its troops from the Tuzla island.

The Kerch Strait, 41 km in length, four to 15 km in width and five to 15 meters in depth, is not only a key shipping gateway between the Azov Sea and the Black Sea, but also rich in fishing resources.

The two countries have been divided over the border demarcation of the Kerch Strait, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, haggling about where to draw a border line to divide the water areas.

Russia insisted on demarcating lines on the sea floor of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. But Ukraine preferred to draw the border line on the water surface in accordance with international law.

Source: Xinhua