Norway and Russia divvy up Barents
April 27, 2010
A 40-year border dispute in the Barents Sea was resolved on Tuesday, when Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced they’d agreed on where the line should run between their two countries. Stoltenberg called it “an historic day” for both Norway and Russia.
It had been expected the two leaders would continue negotiating the dispute but it came as a surprise that they’d actually come to terms on what both called a “compromise” over the nagging issue.
“There is now agreement between our delegations over the border in the Barents Sea,” Stoltenberg told reporters after a morning meeting with Medvedev during the Russian leader’s state visit to Norway. “This is an historic day and it’s an important problem that now has been solved.
“There is agreement on all the elements in an overall solution to the problem we have negotiated for 40 years.”
Stoltenberg (at left in PicApp photo) and Medvedev were all smiles once again after another meeting during Medvedev’s visit to Oslo. Lying at the heart of the border dispute have been the territorial rights to important fishing grounds and potentially valuable petroleum reserves.
Details of exactly where the borderline will run remained sketchy and Stoltenberg said there was still “some technical monitoring work” to do before a final agreement could be signed. That agreement must also be approved by the parliaments of each country.
But Stoltenberg called it “an enormous declaration of confidence that two countries have agreed on a border that stretches way into the polar areas.”
Russia had been favouring a so-called sektorlinje principle while Norway argued for a midtlinje principle further to the east. That put roughly 175,000 square kilometers of the Barents Sea, the Arctic Sea and the continental shelf under it into a disputed zone, which Stoltenberg said now will roughly be divided in two.
The new agreement is anchored in international maritime and common law, Stoltenberg said, and stressed that must be the foundation for cooperation between Norway and Russia. He thanked both countries’ foreign ministers and negotiators for their “intense work,” and called it “a joyous day for Norway and for Russia, not least for our people in the north.”
The two leaders could then head to an official luncheon that already was scheduled but looked set to turn into a celebration. When asked how he’d managed to keep the compromise news secret, Medvedev smiled and said that “in Russia, we have a tradition for conspiracies.”