WARSAW, Poland -- Germany and Poland formally ratified yesterday a treaty recognizing their existing border as valid and permanent.
They thus ended a controversy that has erupted periodically since World War II and to which Germany's recent reunification added urgency.
At a ceremony at Warsaw's Palace of the Council of Ministers, Foreign Ministers Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Krzysztof Skubiszewski signed and exchanged copies of the treaty.
Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who won final agreement to the treaty from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl last week, watched the ceremony.
Recognition of the existing border signifies the new Germany's acknowledgment of Poland's right to Silesia and Western Pomerania, areas surrendered to Poland after Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945.
Separate treaties drawn up first in 1950 with East Germany and then in 1970 with West Germany ratified the postwar border along the Oder and Neisse rivers.
But to Warsaw's consternation, Chancellor Kohl in the past year seemed reluctant to confirm the boundary of the new Germany. Small but vocal right-wing groups clamored for the restoration of all Germany's territories lost after World War II.
"We are not renouncing anything that was not already lost as a result of the past crimes of a criminal regime," Mr. Genscher said. He called the settlement of the border question "a fundamental element of European peace."
Reassured as to its territorial inviolability, Poland in turn was ready to guarantee the rights of its small German minority. "In our country all minorities, including the German minority, will have all the conditions necessary to their development," Prime Minister Mazowiecki said.
With the border question out of the way, the two countries are now concentrating on a new treaty outlining cooperation between them. Negotiations are to begin in Bonn at the end of the month, and the treaty will probably be signed at the turn of the year, according to Polish negotiator Mieczyslaw Pszon.