Norway and Russia met for own talks

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Two high-ranking politically appointed officials from Norway and Russia met for talks in Oslo on Monday, a bilateral meeting that caught attention in Norwegian media. The Norwegians said they made it clear that Norway continues to oppose Russian intervention in Ukraine, and Norway is also concerned about Russia’s recent bombings in Syria, “but it’s important to cooperate where we can,” said Norwegian State Secretary Tore Hattrem.

Russia's deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov (front right) was in Oslo on Monday for talks with his Norwegian counterpart. This photo was taken two years ago, at a meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Tromsø. In the background, the EU's envoy in Norway Helen Clark, and Lars-Anders Bær, the indigenous people's representative to the council. (PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov (front right) was in Oslo on Monday for talks with his Norwegian counterpart. This photo was taken two years ago, at a meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Tromsø that also was attended by Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende (front left). In the background, the EU’s ambassador to Norway, Helen Clark, and Lars-Anders Bær, the indigenous people’s representative to the council. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

He met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Titov, said to be one of the closest colleagues of Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov, for what the Russians called “bilateral consultations.” Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the Russians took the initiative for the meeting in Oslo and that they were viewed as a gesture aimed at softening some hard standpoints over the past 18 months.

The official topics were both bilateral and international challenges, including the northern areas and border policies, Ukraine and Syria. Hattrem rejected suggestions that the talks were unusual.

“There’s nothing new or surprising about this,” Hattrem told NRK, adding that Norwegian officials have held talks with their Russian counterparts for quite some time.

Tore Hattrem, a new state secretary in Norway's foreign ministry, claimed his meeting with Titov of Russia was not unusual. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Per Thrana

Tore Hattrem, a new state secretary in Norway’s foreign ministry, claimed his meeting with Titov of Russia was not unusual. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Per Thrana

Hattrem recently replaced Bård Glad Pedersen as a state secretary in the foreign ministry from Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s and Foreign Minister Børge Brende’s Conservative Party. He stressed that Norway’s position on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has not changed, and that Norway believes Russia has violated international law with its annexation of Crimea and “destabilizing” intervention in eastern Ukraine. “Our views were also made clear during today’s meeting,” Hattrem told NRK Monday afternoon.

He said it was important to continue a dialogue with Russia “to protect our national interests, especially regarding questions tied to the northern (mainland) areas and the Arctic (Barents Sea).” He noted Russia’s and Norway’s “common interests” regarding their shared border, fishing interests, atomic issues, the environment and trade. “It’s important to cooperate where we can cooperate,” Hattrem said.

He claimed the talks took place in a “friendly atmosphere.” At the same time, though, his boss Erna Solberg delivered some new strong criticism of Russia’s behavior in Urkaine while speaking at a NATO meeting in Stavanger.

“Russia’s aggression and violation of international law in Ukraine is unacceptable,” Solberg said. “The country has brought armed conflict back to the European continent. Russia has increased its military capacity and the country has shown it is willing to attain strategic goals with military force.”

Øyvind Halleraker, leader of Norway’s parliamentary delegation to the NATO meeting in Stavanger, told NRK that Norway intends to urge other members of NATO to tigheten sanctions against Russia that were issued in response to its involvement in Ukraine.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund