Foreign Minister talks tough in Russia

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told his Russian counterpart in Moscow this week that Norway is worried about repeated violations of human rights in Russia. The Norwegian foreign ministry used an unusually “tough tone” in his talks with Sergei Lavrov.

Norway is keen to maintain good relations with its giant neighbor to the east, but Støre told reporters that “we have to say what we mean about the violation of human rights.”
He told newspaper Aftenposten that Norway “is generally uneasy for the civilian community in Russia. Named persons from Amnesty International and the Helsinki Committee are denied entry into Russia, and I had a conversation with Lavrov about this.”

Støre (at left in photo) used a much tougher tone in his meeting and Lavrov (behind Støre) seemed to listen.

“This has to do with international rights and I can discuss such things with Jonas,” Lavrov said. “We will follow up on this.”

Russia also has been the target of sharp criticism recently from both the US and the European Union, following mass arrests at a peaceful demonstration and harassment of human rights activists. Most western nations feel there’s been a steady deterioration of freedom in recent years, as Vladimir Putin firms his grip on control within the country, and that many Russians live in fear of the authorities.

Earlier this week, the leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, nominated one of Russia’s foremost champions of human rights, Svetlana Gannusjkina, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Støre invited Gannusjkina to the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow during his visit and spent an hour meeting with her, according to Aftenposten.

“I wanted to meet her and acknowledge the courage she and other human rights activists have in Russia,” Støre said. “It shouldn’t be necessary, but they are willing to live with threats. It’s important to hear what they have to say.”

It also was confirmed during Støre’s meeting with Lavrov that Russian President Dimitri Medvedev will make a state visit to Norway this spring. No date was set, but the main focus of Medvedev’s trip will be the “bilateral cooperation” between Norway and Russia in the northern areas, which long has been at the top of Støre’s agenda. Norway is involved in the development of Russia’s Stockman gas field in the Barents Sea, and Russia also ranks as one of Norway’s biggest seafood customers, so lots of money is involved as well as politics.


Views and News from Norway/
Nina Berglund
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