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Norway interested in maintaining cooperation with Russia, says minister

Norway is seeking to maintain good relations with Russia

OSLO, February 21. /TASS/. Norway is seeking to maintain good-neighborly relations and practical cooperation with Russia, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said on Wednesday as she addressed an annual international conference in Kirkenes, a town in the Arctic northeast of the country located 9 km away from the Norwegian-Russian border.

Cooperation between the two countries should develop in the interests of the rank-and-file people, she said, stressing the importance of keeping up practical cooperation with Russia and good-neighborliness traditions at a fair level.

Neighbors have a duty to maintain dialogue in the process of discussing the contradictions that may spring up between them and prevent the situations where politics might have a bearing on the rank-and-file Norwegians and Russians or on the long-time traditions of grassroots diplomacy, Dr. Soreide said.

"We work with Russia in those areas where we have good cooperation in the Arctic Council which I think is a very good example of how we can do this," she said in the course of a panel discussion.

"I will mention young people and the fact Sweden is now celebrating 25 years of the youth conference cooperation," Dr. Soreide went on. "This is a good idea. Also we have a very long and solid history and tradition of very good cooperation when it comes to managing our fish stocks, caring for the ocean, sustainable growth and sustainable ocean economy."

She stressed the importance of business, cultural and cross-border research projects the Foreign Ministry was financing via the Barents Secretariat.

One of the long-term objectives of Norwegian foreign policy is to make joint steps with Russia towards making it easier for the companies from both counties to implement joint projects, Dr. Soreide said.

"One of our concerns right now is that the judiciary and legal climate in Russia is getting more difficult that means that it is also more risky to start businesses and you," she said. "I think we can only do this in this field because of our region, we depend on close cooperation and exchange over the borders."

The annual Kirkenes Conference concentrates on cooperation of the countries making up the Barents/Euro-Arctic region [BEAR] that was established 25 years ago for broadening international and regional collaboration and promulgating grassroots diplomacy.

BEAR embraces Russia’s Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, the republic of Komi, the Nenents autonomous area, and republic of Karelia, Norway’s counties of Nurlann, Troms and Finnmark, two Swedish lans and three Finnish regions.