OSLO, April 20 /TASS/. The fact that Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin (who is under EU sanctions supported by Norway) has visited Spitsbergen should not be a problem in Russian-Norwegian relations, Russian Ambassador to Norway Vyacheslav Pavlovsky told journalists on Monday.
The Russian diplomat had been summoned to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry earlier on Monday to give explanations why a person from the EU blacklist had visited the Spitsbergen archipelago.
"We presented our arguments. I also noted that the trip should not become a problem in our bilateral relations," Pavlovsky said. He also explained that the provisions of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty did not oblige any of the countries signatories to notify Norway about their citizens' trips to the archipelago.
Citizens of more than 40 countries who signed the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty can visit the archipelago without visas. The document placed the Arctic archipelago under the Kingdom of Norway’s sovereignty on special terms. Spitsbergen can be reached by regular flights via continental Norway, for which a transit Schengen visa may be necessary, or by charter flights from Russia.
Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin arrived in Spitsbergen on April 18 to join an expedition to the North Pole where he took part in the opening of the "North Pole 2015" Russian drifting Arctic station on April 19.
Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, said earlier on Monday that the reasons for using Spitsbergen by the North Pole 2015 expedition were exclusively logistical and were prompted requirements of aviation safety in high latitudes.
The Russian ambassador, in turn, said that the Norwegian media should probably focus more on bilateral cooperation between Russia and Norway rather than on differences.
"We are neighbours, we are partners. Our countries successfully cooperate with each other, and this is what we should focus on," Pavlovsky told Norwegian TV channels. He also noted that Rogozin’s visit to Spitsbergen should in no way be considered as a sign of Russia’s changing policy towards Norway as it was claimed by some Norwegian experts polled by the local media.
Spitsbergen was handed over to Norway after WWI on condition of preserving its special international status. The 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty fixed Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago and granted equal rights to more than 40 countries that signed the Treaty to use its resources. However, Norway and Russia are the only countries to preserve their economic presence on Spitsbergen.