OSLO, April 22 (Reuters) – Norway and Russia are making progress in talks to end decades of dispute over their maritime border in the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic rich with oil and gas, Norway’s foreign minister told Reuters on Thursday.
But Jonas Gahr Stoere played down prospects of a deal during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Oslo next week. Medvedev will also visit Denmark, an Arctic power through its Greenland territories, as global warming makes the icy region more accessible and triggers new territorial claims.
"Since 2005, we have been in a constructive dialogue on this (Barents Sea border) issue," said Stoere, highlighting a 2007 deal over delineation of a fjord inlet at the southern tip of the disputed zone, which is half the size of Germany.
"Our negotiators have been narrowing gaps. Each day, we get one day closer…(but) this is a long story," he said when asked if a breakthrough was imminent.
Stoere rejected views that Norway, whose oil and gas resources are much smaller than those of Russia, would be increasingly pressured over time to settle for any border pact that would unlock at least part of the Arctic resources.
"Norway will never negotiate this type of deal out of time pressure. We have always been of the view that the delimitation line will unleash a potential for cooperation," Stoere said.
He said proposals from Russia for joint exploration in the disputed area before a deal had been reached were "politely rejected" by Oslo, which wants "the predictability of a border."
The disputed zone is sandwiched between the Shtokman gas discovery on the Russian side — a huge reservoir which holds enough gas to meet global demand for a year — and two promising oil and gas fields on the Norwegian side. Norway’s champion Statoil <STL.OL> is helping develop the giant Shtokman project.
"There is no one single project that will determine whether we succeed in the far north," said Stoere. "But if Shtokman gets off the ground, it will stimulate a lot of activity."
Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States have Arctic borders and are working to stake out territorial claims over what geologists say could be a massive resource reserve.
In 2007 a Russian submarine planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole, stoking concern of a new race for claims on undersea shelf limits which give states the right to exploit resources on and beneath the seabed, such as oil, gas and fish.
Stoere believes that some Arctic states have "over-interpreted" the symbolic flag planting, which he said "did not create law or initiate a process of recognition."
The North Pole area in the Arctic Ocean is claimed by both Russia and Denmark, and is likely to be on the agenda during Medvedev’s visit to Copenhagen. Norway’s own new Arctic claims stop in deep water about 550 kms (342 miles) from the Pole.
Stoere said that Norwegian-Russian cooperation on Arctic issues had "developed enormously" in past years.
Illegal fishing in the Barents amounted to every fourth fish caught in 1990, and is now "almost zero", he said. Joint initiatives on search and rescue, surveillance and environmental standards have also borne fruit, as has a Nordic-wide effort to safely deal with Soviet nuclear waste in the Murmansk peninsula.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
OSLO/STOCKHOLM, April 19 (Reuters) – The world’s largest
fish farmer, Norway’s Marine Harvest <MHG.OL>, reduced its
salmon harvest and Iceland put fresh fish on ice as flight
restrictions due to an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano
Marine Harvest said it would cut back from Monday the
amount of fish it was harvesting to avoid oversupplying Europe
while exports to Asia and North America were hindered by flight
bans across Europe because of the extent of the cloud and the
danger it presented to air traffic.
MOSCOW/OSLO, April 16 (Reuters) – A high-profile peace accord
between Norway’s Telenor <TEL.OL> and Russia’s Alfa cleared two
big hurdles on Friday as smaller shareholders backed their asset
merger plan and a lawsuit hampering the deal was dropped.
Telenor and Alfa Group — business empire of Russian tycoon
Mikhail Fridman — decided late last year to merge their
holdings in Vimpelcom <VIP.N>, Russia’s No.2 mobile operator,
and Ukraine’s Kyivstar into New-York listed company Vimpelcom
Ltd to end a long-running corporate battle. [ID:nL5637811]
OSLO, April 15 (Reuters) – Russian mobile group Vimpelcom
<VIP.N> may extend the time period for its shareholders to
approve a Ukrainian merger deal if it falls short of the 95
percent acceptance level, Norwegian part-owner Telenor <TEL.OL>
The offer to exchange Vimpelcom shares into shares in a new
company, Vimpelcom Ltd, which encompasses Ukrainian operator
Kyivstar, ends at 2100 GMT on Thursday.
OSLO (Reuters) – A record 237 people and organizations have been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, with interest boosted by last year’s award to President Barack Obama, organizers said on Wednesday.
The world’s media focused on the Peace Prize after Obama was the unexpected choice for what some see as the world’s highest accolade, although he had been in office for just nine months and critics said he had only spelt out visions of peace.
REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Iceland’s government pledged on Sunday to restart talks and swiftly reach a new debt accord with Britain and Netherlands, a day after Icelanders crushed in a referendum the previous $5 billion “Icesave” deal.
Some 94 percent of Icelanders rejected a deal from late 2009 on Iceland repaying the British and Dutch governments for covering the losses of depositors in their countries with money in “Icesave” accounts of a collapsed Icelandic bank.
REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Icelandic voters vented their fury on Saturday at the bankers and politicians who ruined the economy, overwhelmingly rejecting a $5 billion deal to repay debts to Britain and the Netherlands.
The outcome of the referendum had not been in doubt since Iceland had recently been offered better repayment terms than those contained in the deal on which residents were voting.
REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Icelanders vote in a referendum on Saturday on a $5 billion deal to repay Anglo-Dutch loans, with an expected resounding “No” set to further delay foreign aid and hopes for economic recovery.
Despite the consequences of rejecting the standing deal, Icelanders are angry about what they see as harsh repayment terms from Britain and the Netherlands and they are now certain they can get a much better deal.
OSLO (Reuters) – Iceland can get by without more cash from the International Monetary Fund until it needs to refinance debt in 2011, although any big delay will hit its economy, a central banker said on Thursday.
Sedlabanki Deputy Governor Arnor Sighvatsson told Reuters foreign investors should remain calm if Icelanders reject the “Icesave” bill in Saturday’s referendum, which would probably freeze the foreign aid needed to revive a collapsed economy.
While not exactly pocket change, Iceland’s $5.5 billion Icesave debt to Britain and the Netherlands amounts to just 1.2 percent of the value of Norway’s offshore wealth fund. For Iceland, it’s more than $15,000 per citizen.
Given the two countries’ close historic links — Norwegian Vikings discovered the Atlantic island where people still speak a version of “old Norwegian” — speculation about Oslo coming to the rescue has Reykjavik licking its lips.