Russia wants to strengthen its presence on Svalbard – requesting a meeting with Norway

SvalbardSvalbard.Photo: Tore Meek / NTB scanpix
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is dissatisfied with the way Norway manages parts of the Svalbard Treaty and has requested a meeting.

”We will not reduce the presence on Svalbard. On the contrary, we have long-term plans to strengthen it,” writes the Russian Foreign Minister in a letter to his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Søreide (Høyre/Conservative Party).

The letter was sent in connection with the 100th anniversary of the Svalbard Treaty this coming Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reports. The matter has also been discussed by NRK and High North News.

Lavrov expresses dissatisfaction that Norway has placed restrictions on Russian helicopter use on Svalbard, as well as the fishing protection zone and the protected areas, where there is limited access to conduct business. He also dislikes a deportation practice that allegedly only applies to Russian citizens.

– Our Norwegian partners are invited to a bilateral meeting to remove restrictions on Russian activities on the archipelago. We expect a positive response from the Norwegian side, writes the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Peaceful coexistence
It is emphasized that ”Russia is the only country outside Norway that has for decades conducted economic operations on Svalbard.”

However, Lavrov also in the letter welcomes the way Norway has complied with parts of the Svalbard Treaty. The treaty establishes Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago, but at the same time that citizens of other countries have equal rights to conduct business, hunting and fishing there.

– The tradition of peaceful coexistence and neighborhood on Svalbard was not even interrupted during the Cold War, and still applies today, he points out.

Assessing answers
Press spokeswoman Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms to NRK that they have received the statement from Lavrov and the Russian Foreign Ministry, and are now considering how to answer it.

Norwegian authorities have said that strict regulations on business activities are necessary, including helicopter flight on Svalbard for the sake of the vulnerable nature.

The Norwegian fisheries protection zone around Svalbard, which was introduced in 1977, is internationally contested. Nevertheless, most countries have accepted that Norway regulates fishing in the area.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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