OSLO, March 3. /TASS/. Norway needs to maintain good-neighborly relations with Russia, a veteran of Norwegian diplomacy said in an article published by Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday, as the Ukrainian conflict has soured Russian-European relations.
"For more than 1,000 years, Norwegian and Russian people have lived side by side, maintaining constructive good-neighborly relations where aspirations for peace and cooperation always prevailed," said Mette Kongshem, once Norwegian ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as ambassador to the Czech Republic and countries of Central Asia.
"This is the legacy that must be maintained in defining our policy towards Russia," the diplomat said.
Although a small country, Norway could help its Western partners avoid the worsening of ties with Russia and further tensions in Europe, the diplomat said.
Kongshem criticized Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, who told CNN last week that relations between Western countries and Russia had been spoiled forever and would never return to the former format.
"I consider Soreide’s words politically unsuccessful. These are statements pointing to Norway’s new political course towards Russia. The politics that may damage long-term interests of our country," the diplomat said in the interview, noting that the defense minister had been ignoring historical facts.
"Does the defense minister believe Norway should have never normalized relations with Germany after its army intruded into the Norwegian territory occupying the country for five long years?" the ex-ambassador said.
Earlier, the former foreign minister of Norway and father of NATO’s secretary general, Thorvald Stoltenberg, expressed confidence that relations between the two countries would soon get back to normal.
"If Soreide’s statements mean that she does not believe it is possible to enhance cooperation between Norway and Russia, I don’t agree with her," Stoltenberg told the Dagsavisen daily newspaper published in Oslo.
"Norway has never been in a conflict either with the Soviet Union or with Russia, as we have always understood that the best way is cooperation that has visibly strengthened over the past 25 years," Thorvald Stoltenberg said.
Back in the 1990s, Thorvald Stoltenberg took an active part in a partnership project for the northern regions of Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In 1993, Stoltenberg, the then Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev and the foreign ministers of Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden signed a declaration to establish the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.