Stoltenberg bound for Murmansk

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has cleared his schedule for a sudden trip to Murmansk next week, to seal Norway’s deal with Russia on their legal division of the Barents Sea. Stoltenberg and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet once again, to sign the agreement.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that the meeting next week in Murmansk came as something of surprise to the Norwegians. Stoltenberg’s staff had been under the impression the two leaders would meet in Moscow towards the end of the month.

But last week came word from the Kremlin that the Russians wanted to attend to the formalities in Murmansk on September 15, when Medvedev would be in the northern city on the Barents coast for another, local meeting.

Stoltenberg will therefore fly up to Murmansk to settle a 40-year-long process around the so-called delelinje (sector line) that divides 175,000 square kilometers of important Arctic waters and half of the potentially resource-rich seabed.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his Russian counterpart, Sergej Lavrov, will also be on hand for the important ceremonies that are a triumph for both the Russian and Norwegian governments.

Russia and Norway reached their historic agreement during Medvedev’s state visit to Norway last spring and officials in both countries have since been tying up the details. The settlement of the sector line is accompanied by two additional agreements, one involving division of oil and gas resources on both sides of the line, and one on fishing rights in the area.

For Norway, the deal marks a major diplomatic success and establishes once and for all which country has rights to which areas of the Arctic. For Russia, the agreement proves that it can operate in line with international legal practice, and Aftenposten reported that officials in Moscow are proud of the agreement.

There are no indications that the deal will encounter any problems being ratified in the Russian Duma, and it may be approved by the end of the year.

Aftenposten also reported that progress has been made on yet another agreement between Norway and Russia, a so-called grenseboerbevis deal.  It would allow Norwegian, Russian and even foreign residents along both sides of the two countries’ shared border in the north to more easily move back and forth across the border without visas. It may be approved by yearend.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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