Barents Sea Dispute on Agenda at Norway-Russia Talks

OSLO, June 9, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

An almost 40-year conflict over Barents Sea borders and Arctic issues were high on the agenda Monday for talks between the foreign ministers of Norway and Russia in northern Norway, officials in Oslo said.

"It's not a coincidence that the meeting is being held in Kirkenes (in the far north of the Scandinavian country) and will be continued in Murmansk (in northwestern Russia)," Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Lene Dale Sandsten told AFP.

"Norway and Russia have a joint interest in the far north and there will be a lot of talks about regional cooperation, both in the Barents Sea and in the Arctic in general," she said.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Sergei Lavrov were due to begin their talks early Monday evening. They were expected to discuss a border dispute about a large swathe of the Barents Sea believed to contain lucrative oil and gas deposits.

Oslo and Moscow have been at odds since 1970 over how to share the 176,000 square-kilometer zone.

Dale Sandsten refused to comment on the possibility of a breakthrough in the talks, during which they were to ratify an agreement reached last year which drew a 70-kilometer border around their immediate maritime zones.

They were also to discuss a possible easing of transborder crossings, which today require a visa.

The meeting will continue Tuesday in Murmansk, on the Russian side of the border.

OSLO, June 9, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

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