Norway may participate in Putin’s Arkhangelsk Arctic conference

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - January 11, 2017
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The last time Norway and Russia meet for political talks in the high north was when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) visited Kirkenes in Norway in October 2014 together with Børge Brende. (Thomas Nilsen /  The Independent Barents Observer)
The last time Norway and Russia meet for political talks in the high north was when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) visited Kirkenes in Norway in October 2014 together with Børge Brende. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

A thaw in political contacts between Norway and Russia is currently blowin in the wind.

For the first time since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 is Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs likely to participate at a Russian Arctic conference on a political level.

Head of Communication with the Ministry, Frode Øverland Andersen, confirms in an e-mail to the Barents Observer that Arkhangelsk could be visited in March.

“The Foreign Ministry considers participation at a political level at the conference ‘Arctic – Territory of Dialogue in Arkhangelsk during spring, but no decision is yet taken,” Frode Øverland Andersen says.

“We have a long tradition of cooperating with Russia in the Arctic. Dialogue with Russian authorities has been — and still is — active and constructive in this area,” he says.

It is, however, no secret that Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs only has been present with diplomats and officials at Arctic conferences in Russia since Oslo decided to freeze political relations three years ago.

Lavrov turned down invitation to Tromsø

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, known for playing the reciprocity game, in November turned down an invitation sent to Sergey Lavrov to come to Norway’s main annual Arctic conference, the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø later this January. Foreign Minister Børge Brende invited Lavrov and 11 other Foreign Ministers to Tromsø.

Frode Øverland Andersen will not elaborate on who from the Ministry is considering to travel to Arkhangelsk, either Minister Børge Brende or State Secretary Marit Berger Røsland.

“Arctic – Territory of Dialogue Forum” on March 29-30 will be attended by President Vladimir Putin.

The forum is arranged by the Russian Geographical Society and has earlier been arranged in Moscow, Salekhard and Arkhangelsk.

In addition to Vladimir Putin, the Arkhangelsk conference will be attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Commission for Arctic Development Dmitry Rogozin, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergey Ivanov.

In 2014, Norway’s Arctic Frontiers conference signed a partnership deal with the Russian Geographical Society.