OSLO, April 20. /TASS/. Oslo is not interested in straining relations with Moscow over the recent visit by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to the Spitsbergen archipelago, Norwegian Foreign Minister Berge Brende said after a meeting with Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Pavlovsky on Monday.
"We have no intentions to exacerbate this situation," the Norwegian foreign minister said.
"Nevertheless, we clearly stated in our talk with the Russian ambassador today that we don’t want to see persons on the sanctions lists in Norway, including on the territory of Svalbard [Spitsbergen]. We expect Russia as our good neighbor to act correspondingly," the Norwegian foreign minister said.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry will "take all necessary steps to make clear the fact that the effect of restrictive measures will also apply to the territory of Svalbard [Spitsbergen]," Brende said.
Norway’s Foreign Ministry earlier expressed regret that Rogozin had visited the Spitsbergen archipelago, adding the visit was not a breach of the Norwegian legislation.
Vice-Premier Rogozin has been on the European Union’s blacklist of Russian politicians and businessmen barred from entering the EU since March 2014. The ban is part of Europe’s sectoral and individual sanctions imposed against Moscow over its stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine.
While Norway is not an EU member, the Nordic country has consistently joined all the rounds of the EU’s sanctions against Russia, including entry restrictions.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday that Norway’s unilateral sanctions against Moscow over its stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine do not cancel a provision of the 1920 Treaty on Spitsbergen that stipulates free access to the archipelago for citizens from signatory states.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement came in the wake of Norway’s demand that Moscow should provide explanations for the visit by Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin to the Spitsbergen archipelago, which is part of Norway but has a special international status.
"Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin who heads the State Commission for the Development of the Arctic took part in the opening of Russia’s North Pole-2015 drifting station on April 19," the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said in a statement.
"Due to this, he made two technical stops at Longyear airport on the Norwegian Spitsbergen archipelago, from where a Russian plane suited for landing and taking off from an ice floe was involved to deliver the participants in this event to the station and back," the statement said.
Owing to complex weather conditions in the area near the station, which worsened on April 18, making it impossible to receive this plane for some time, the vice-premier used this pause to make a tour of the Russian settlement Barentsburg on Spitsbergen, the Russian diplomat said.
"The visit to the archipelago for the North Pole-2015 expedition was caused by purely logistic reasons and the requirements of aviation safety in high latitudes," Lukashevich said.
"This circumstance seems to be quite natural and understanding could be expected from the Norwegian side in the spirit of partnership in the Arctic, which has been demonstrated by Norway up until now," Lukashevich said.
Spitsbergen, which Norwegians call Svalbard, is located between the 76th and 80th parallels in the Arctic Ocean. The archipelago was placed under Norway’s sovereignty after World War One on condition that it kept a special international status.
The Spitsbergen Treaty signed in 1920 sealed Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago. At the same time, the Treaty’s signatory states comprising over 50 countries have equal rights to the development of the archipelago’s natural resources.
Despite this, only Norway and Russia maintain their economic presence on the archipelago. Russians have a possibility to visit Spitsbergen without any visas, if they go to the archipelago directly from Russia.
However, if their route crosses continental Norway, they need to be issued transit Schengen visas.
The Russian vice-premier opened on Sunday the North Pole-2015 Arctic drifting station. During his stay on Spitsbergen, Rogozin visited the Barentsburg community center in the archipelago’s Russian part where he inspected a local coalmine, an airport and a museum. The Russian state coal company Arktikugol operates an area of 251 square kilometers on Spitsbergen.