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OSLO, April 20 /TASS/. Norway should not stoke tensions in relations with Russia after Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin, who is on the EU sanctions list, visited Spitsbergen on his way to the North Pole on April 18, Russian Ambassador to Norway Vyacheslav Pavlovsky told TASS on Monday after a meeting with Rune Resaland, director of Department for Security Policy and the High North of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Russian diplomat was 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 gave the necessary explanations to the Norwegian side over the visit to Spitsbergen by Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin. We also called on our partners not to exacerbate tensions and not to create artificial pretexts for unnecessary frictions in our bilateral relations," Pavlovsky said.
He called on the Norwegian media to 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.
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 by requirements of aviation safety in high latitudes.
Lukashevich also said that the unilateral EU sanctions, which Norway supports, had not cancelled the provisions of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty that allows the citizens of over 40 countries signatories to this treaty to visit the archipelago freely without visas.
"On April 19, Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin who heads the State Commission for Arctic Development took part in the opening of the North Pole-2015 Russian drifting station," Lukashevich said in a statement.
"In this connection he had to make two technical stops …on Norwegian Spitsbergen from where a Russian plane fit for landing on an ice floe was supposed to deliver members of the North Pole -2015 expedition to the Russian station and back," Lukashevich stressed.
"The weather conditions in the vicinity of the station that worsened on April 18 made it impossible to receive planes for some time. To fill that pause, it was decided to visit Barentsburg, a Russian village on Spitsbergen," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson explained.
"The reasons for using Spitsbergen by the North Pole- 2015 expedition were exclusively logistical and were prompted by requirements of aviation safety in high latitudes. This circumstance is absolutely natural, and we could hope for the Norwegian side’s understanding in the spirit of partnership in the Arctic that Norway has always displayed until recently," Lukashevich stressed.
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.