Knockin’ on Russia’s Arctic door

Foreign Ministry in Oslo confirms possible political participation at Putin’s Arctic conference in Arkhangelsk in March.
Last time Norway and Russia meet for political talks in the high north was when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) visited Norwegian Kirkenes in October 2014 together with Børge Brende. Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer

A thaw in political contacts between Norway and Russia is currently in the air.

For the first time since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is likely to participate in a Russian Arctic conference on a political level.

Head of communications with the ministry, Frode Øverland Andersen, confirms in an e-mail to the Barents Observer that Norwegian officials could visit Arkhangelsk in March.

“The Foreign Ministry considers participation at a political level at the conference Arctic – Territory of Dialogue in Arkhangelsk during spring, but no decision is yet taken,” Frode Øverland Andersen says.

“We have a long tradition of cooperating with Russia in the Arctic. Dialogue with Russian authorities has been – and still is – active and constructive in this area,” he says.

It is, however, no secret that Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs only has been present with diplomats and officials at Arctic conferences in Russia since Oslo decided to freeze political relations three years ago.

Lavrov turned down invitation to Tromsø

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, known for playing the reciprocity game, last November turned down an invitation sent to Sergey Lavrov to come to Norway’s main annual Arctic conference, the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø later this January. Foreign Minister Børge Brende invited Lavrov and 11 other Foreign Ministers to Tromsø.

Frode Øverland Andersen will not elaborate on who from the Ministry is considering to travel to Arkhangelsk, either Minister Børge Brende or State Secretary Marit Berger Røsland.

“Arctic – Territory of Dialogue Forum” on 29-30 March will be attended by President Vladimir Putin.

Rogozin and Ivanov

The forum is organized by the Russian Geographical Society and has earlier taken place in Moscow, Salekhard and Arkhangelsk.

In addition to Vladimir Putin, the Arkhangelsk conference will be attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Commission for Arctic Development Dmitry Rogozin, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergey Ivanov.

In 2014, Norway’s Arctic Frontiers conference signed a partnership deal with the Russian Geographical Society.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada stresses diplomacy and cooperation at Ottawa Arctic conference, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Norway:  Arctic Council aims to boost business, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Russia invites Arctic Council on icebreaker tour, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:   Arctic Council – From looking out to looking in, Blog by Mia Bennett, Cryopolitics

United States: Arctic Council – 20 years in a warming world, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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