Norway will send top minister duo to high-level Russian conference with aim of furthering Arctic dialogue

It will be the first visit of a Norwegian prime minister to Russia since that nation's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - February 27, 2019
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide on the coast to the Barents Sea. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister will both attend a high-level Arctic meeting in Russia this spring, signaling a potential political thaw between the two nations.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide on Wednesday announced that she and Prime Minister Erna Solberg would attend the bi-annual Arctic Forum taking place in St. Petersburg on April 9-10, which will be headlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It will be the first time since 2014 that Norway’s Prime Minister travels to Russia.

Despite tensions, sanctions and less trade, the two countries keep an open door for continued of cooperation in the north. Speaking at a conference in Kirkenes near Norway’s border to Russia, Eriksen Søreide underlined the importance of dialogue and practical contacts.

Nuclear safety, health, knowledge and people-to-people contacts were among issues the Foreign Minister said will be a priority as Norway later this year takes over the chairmanship of the multilateral Barents Council, a regional structure facilitating for cross-border cooperation between the northernmost regions of Russia, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

In St. Petersburg, the Arctic conference which has the sub-title “Territory of Dialogue” will gather international stakeholders from politics, science and business. Originally planned to be in Arkhangelsk, the organizers in January decided to move the venue to St. Petersburg, citing a lack of hotel rooms and a large enough conference hall as thousands of people are signing up for participation.

When arranged in Arkhangelsk in 2017, Norway’s then-Foreign Minister Børge Brende participated in what was his first visit to Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea three years earlier.

As previously reported by the Barents Observer, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will come to Kirkenes, Norway, on October 25th to participate in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Eastern Finnmark from Nazi-German occupation in 1944.