19 Oct 2017 14:45

Norway seems unwilling to solve problems around joint use of Spitsbergen - Lavrov

ARKHANGELSK. Oct 19 (Interfax) - There have been some problems with the joint use of Spitsbergen, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Arkhangelsk.

"Of course, we believe that the situation pertaining to our cooperation on the archipelago could have been more constructive. We are in favor of strict adherence to the Spitsbergen agreement by every party," Lavrov said.

"Nevertheless, we sporadically have problems with our Norwegian neighbors, such as restrictions on flights of Arktikugol helicopters and scientific research permits," he said.

"We believe that the issuance of such permits is at odds with the provisions of the Spitsbergen Treaty," Lavrov said.

Russia has sent several "notes to Norwegian colleagues with a request to explain our concerns and ways to overcome them," Lavrov said. "Unfortunately, we have received no answer so far. We have not seen any reciprocal moves from [our] Norwegian colleagues toward starting a dialogue on those matters," he said.

"We have proposed this dialogue several times, but our proposals have been declined," Lavrov said.

For his part, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said that Norway was fully committed to the Spitsbergen Treaty.

Norway follows the agreement to the letter, Brende said, noting that Oslo would like Spitsbergen to be the best governed archipelago of the Arctic from the environmental angle and in other respects.

He also said that, unlike Russia, Norway had not doubled its defense budget since 2005.

Lavrov replied that the bilateral treaty between Russia and Norway was working well, and it was important to protect the northern region against political fluctuations in the EU.

"Allow me to use this occasion to reiterate our respect for the declared commitment of Norway to the Spitsbergen Treaty to the letter, but I have listed concrete issues we have encountered while working on Spitsbergen," he said.

Berge "has had no time to reply to Russia's two inquiries, but I hope that his successors will try to comply with diplomatic rules and give us a diplomatic answer to completely concrete questions," Lavrov said.