News conference following Russian-Norwegian talks

News conference following Russian-Norwegian talks. With Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
News conference following Russian-Norwegian talks. With Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have this chance to meet with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg here in Murmansk, a city that without question holds a special place in the context of Russian-Norwegian cooperation. This city is the centre for numerous different ties between our countries and focus of our common history.

Today, we witnessed the signing of a historic document – a decision that will, I hope, determine the substance of our relations for decades to come. And it is for this reason that we signed this Treaty on Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean here. As I said to the Prime Minister just now, it took us 40 years to reach this treaty. This is a long time, but this event will without question open a new chapter in our bilateral relations.

Furthermore, as we said at the talks just before, this event will have an impact on the overall situation in the region, helping to strengthen international and regional security and improve cooperation between the Arctic countries.

But in describing this treaty, if I could state the most important aspect in a few words, it is that by settling this issue that has remained open for several decades, we can now build our relations in more constructive fashion, in a more predictable environment, and find solutions to all manner of joint tasks, including implementation of joint economic projects. Perhaps most important of all is that clearly delimiting the borders in a region where our interests meet is most certainly a very big step forward.

I expect this treaty will also strengthen our cooperation opportunities in the energy sector and our cooperation in fishing and the other sectors of our mutual involvement.

Today, we discussed a number of projects in which we have established good relations. This includes energy projects, and I hope very much that these projects will progress in the friendly, strategic spirit that we spoke about during my state visit to Norway. I would like to see our relations develop too in the transport sector, cooperating in developing transport corridors, including the Northern Sea Route. The Prime Minister just said, in fact, that our two countries have started shipping via this route right now, thus opening a new stage in our cooperation.

We discussed a wide range of issues, including cooperation in the environment and on nuclear and radiation security. These are our common concerns and we are ready to continue working together in these areas. There are issues of our marine environment, which is our common development base and our common concern, and so we are ready to cooperate here. Of course, we have good prospects for building up our humanitarian ties. I believe that the diverse contacts between our countries and the potential we have today will continue to develop.

As I said to the Prime Minister, aside from this very important and significant treaty that it took us 40 years to reach, on our agenda today were also a number of less significant — depending on what you compare them with – but nonetheless essential agreements. I hope that all of these documents will be ready soon for our joint examination and discussion.

I also thanked the Prime Minister for Norway’s participation in a project that really has great moral significance for us. This was the construction of a sports-oriented boarding school in Beslan. The school opened its doors at the start of September. This is a wonderful present, of course, and a vivid example of the friendship between our countries. Once more, I want to thank the Norwegian government for taking part in projects such as this.

Mr Prime Minister, you have the floor.

Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg (retranslated): President Medvedev, I would like to congratulate you on this historic day for Russia, for Norway, and for our bilateral relations. We are now opening a new era in cooperation between our nations. This is a very important treaty for both countries.

I also highly value the fact that we have signed the treaty here, in Murmansk, because Murmansk is the most important city for our relations. We already have good cooperation here, which has been and is developing. The fact that today we resolved here the last major unsettled issue between our states witnesses that we are promoting and will further promote cooperation to mutual advantage of both Norway and Russia. At our talks we certainly respected the interests of both nations, and we found a solution well balanced in every legal aspect. We now have a very good, explicit, predictable treaty for controlling and exploiting the resources of the maritime space.

The treaty is very powerful for various reasons. First of all, the treaty per se is important because it is critical for the two sides to have determinate and straightforward borders which are 1,700 kilometres long. This is one of the longest borders in Europe and in the whole world. Now, once the clear border exists, the situations here in the North will be predictable, which is very essential.

The second reason why the treaty is significant is that we now have the opportunity to explore and exploit the natural resources located here in the North. We will continue cooperating in fisheries in such a way as to ensure a stable situation, so that the fish resources remain stable in the future. At some stage, we can also jointly develop our oil and gas resources here in the North.

I would like to say to the negotiators that they did not merely draft the treaty on delimitation; we will cooperate in the fisheries and in exploiting oil, gas, and resources located on our side and your side – the cross-border resources. So now we have a treaty on the border and on cooperation in fishing, oil, and gas sectors.

The third reason why the treaty is important is that it applies all the principles of international law. Thus, we now know that similar disputes can be resolved between other nations, in other parts of the world. The treaty can inspire those who want to find solutions in other areas of the planet.

In other words, the treaty is important in and of itself, and because we can now use our natural resources and also because we adhere to the principles of international law, which is very essential.

We believe this approach may be employed in other parts of the North as well. We are already working closely together, and the fact that we are meeting here is another proof to this. We already have 20 Norwegian companies actively operating here in Murmansk and the Murmansk Region in many industries; some are also active suppliers in the oil and gas industries. They can now see new opportunities. We must continue fostering cooperation. Our foreign minister will open a Norwegian Consulate tomorrow in Arkhangelsk which shows that we are developing our cooperation here in the North.

We hope that in the coming months, in fall of this year, we will be able to sign an agreement on special provisions for people living by the border to be able to cross the border without any problems.

The treaty that was signed here must now be ratified and we hope that the ratification will take place in the near future.

We on the Norwegian side intend to do everything to ensure that the treaty is ratified by our parliament before the end of the year. I am very happy that we have been able to sign the treaty so quickly, given that we only came to a consensus on it in April. But this treaty is not the end of our work, rather the beginning of new cooperation between Norway and Russia. It opens a new era in the relations between our two nations, and it is a very important treaty for Russia, for Norway, and for cooperation between our countries. Thank you.

Remark: Mr President, happy birthday.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.

Question: This treaty is a good present for you.

My question is as follows: two years ago, Alexander Medvedev of Gazprom, whom you know well, shared the idea in our studio to advance the Shtokman project by inviting Norwegian technologies and capital further to the east, to Yamal peninsula. Do you believe that this new page in bilateral relations opens prospects for ideas of this kind? Do you like this idea?

Dmitry Medvedev: I appreciate your congratulations.

I will begin by specifically noting that I know Mr Medvedev you referred to very well. He is not a relative of mine, but he and I are well-acquainted through our work in Gazprom.

He is a professional, although he does not only promote gas cooperation, but national ice hockey as well [as President of Kontinental Hockey League], and seems to be good at both. I nevertheless believe he has a good knowledge of gas industry.

As far as Norwegian technologies in Yamal peninsula are concerned, we would indeed like for our Norwegian friends to use their best ideas and know-how for modernising, specifically, Russia’s gas and petrochemical facilities. We are already negotiating Yamal operations, so I certainly hope that this cooperation has good prospects.

Question: Thank you very much. First, please let me congratulate you on the signing of the treaty.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.

Question: You, Mr Medvedev, and you, Mr Prime Minister, underlined its significance and its importance, but I would like to know how this treaty will influence such key areas of our cooperation as fisheries and energy. You already said a few words about cooperation in energy, but perhaps you could be more specific about when you will begin the shelf exploration and whether you discussed launching a joint venture?

This question is for Mr Prime Minister and Mr President.

Dmitry Medvedev: Let me start answering this question.

Clearly, the purpose of the treaty is the delimitation of our interests. In absence of such a treaty, there is always cause for mutual suspicions and reproaches, for some third countries to try to turn an unsettled problem to their advantage. So in this sense, this is a truly important, historic treaty.

Within a relatively short period of time, perhaps even the shortest possible, Mr Prime Minister and I accomplished the process, which has lasted for decades, having offered the constructive positions of both sides and the reasonable compromises that are prerequisites for these kinds of talks. Nevertheless, in my view, the treaty we have is perfectly crafted in terms of legal instrumentation. It is well-adjusted and reflects a balance of interests in all sensitive areas of cooperation. This is, first and foremost, energy, because the unresolved issue of territorial demarcation and maritime delimitation was an obstacle for launching major energy projects, and we were not satisfied with that – we would like these kinds of projects to develop at a higher level of intensity.

Among the issues that always come up are issues regarding how we can exploit the mineral deposits that are located in areas under the jurisdiction of both sides – in other words, shared mineral deposits. In my view, there can only be one effective answer to this matter, it is that such mineral deposits must be exploited jointly. Mr Prime Minister cited the example of the absolutely successful cooperation between Norway and the United Kingdom in a similar project. I think this is the best approach as it brings together efforts, money, and technologies, and I suppose that’s what’s most valuable.

As for questions concerning the fisheries, this is an important and sensitive issue, because a large number of our compatriots are employed in this sector. In this regard, the treaty does not implement anything new that could change the fishing regulations or revise the respective existing agreements in this domain. But I hope that it will create a new environment wherein we can agree on certain disputed situations that have always occurred and will probably continue to occur. In other words, this is probably a kind of push toward a more constructive and partner-like cooperation. During our talks, I told Mr Prime Minister openly that we expect it will become a symbol of closer, more partner-like relations in the fisheries.

We will certainly continue consultations on this very issue. The heads of the corresponding agencies in charge of the issue will receive appropriate instructions from Mr Prime Minister and myself.

As for major projects in the future, there will indeed be projects of this kind, and there are already specific deadlines. Right now, I think what’s most essential is not to postpone them, but to progress at a pace already gained, and naturally, to seek resolutions on issues where there are still disagreements.

Jens Stoltenberg: I would like to add a few words to what was said. First of all, I fully agree with what you said about fisheries. Indeed, the treaty does not change the situation with regard to quotas for Russia and Norway, or access to fish resources, particularly cod. The situation will remain as it is, as we have a mixed Russian-Norwegian commission on fishing which sets quotas and deals with matters of managing fish resources in the North. So for fisheries, the treaty that was signed today simply confirms our current good cooperation in the fishing industry that has existed for many years.

With regard to oil and gas, the situation is somewhat different because, since we could not agree on delimiting the maritime areas before, we could not open up production opportunities, or even seek out resources, to exploit those zones. Now, we have a treaty, we know where the border is, and we have two sectors in the North.

Thus, both Norway and Russia must individually or jointly decide on how we want to use these oil and gas resources – the ones that are located on the Norwegian side and the Russian side. This is certainly a national issue. Russia is to make decisions with regard to the Russian shelf, and Norway does the same for the Norwegian shelf.

The grounds for cooperation exist in the following areas. If, for example, Russia finds resources on the Russian side, Russia can invite our companies to participate, as was done at the Shtokman deposits. Naturally, the decision of whether to invite Norwegian companies is fully up to Russia. And Norway can also invite Russian companies to participate in development on the Norwegian side. Again, these are sovereign decisions.

But there is a special area for cooperation. That concerns deposits located partially on the Russian side and partially on the Norwegian side. There is a special system there, which is described in detail in the treaty we signed today. It specifies what we should do and how we are to arrange the situation and use these resources in the best possible way in such trans-border deposits.

As I said earlier during today’s meeting, the biggest deposits on Norway’s continental shelf are also on the British shelf. One example is the Frigg and Statfjord fields, and we have a special system there for how we must divide costs and divide profits earned. In other words, we have come to a mutual agreement with the UK. We should also do this here, in the North. We currently have good regulations, but we must first find oil and gas, and the fact is, we have not found oil and gas yet.

Question: A question for Mr Medvedev. Our Prime Minister has already mentioned the ratification process. Do you expect any difficulties with ratification in the State Duma? If not, when can the treaty come into effect?

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Prime Minister and I have discussed this matter, but treaties are not signed to bury them in some dusty box and then mess about. Naturally, we sign these documents to ratify them. What is important is that all procedures prescribed by law are respected. Our Parliament has its own procedures, just as the Storting has its own rules.

In addition, I think there is a general atmosphere around the ratification that may either help it, or hinder it. But we are hoping that as a result of joint efforts the atmosphere around the treaty will help ratify it because it is really a complex agreement and one that took us a long time to reach. Therefore, I assume that our Norwegian partners and we will try to synchronise these processes.

Question: I would like to return to the Arctic theme. Recently, NATO has been displaying an interest in the region, and a number of Norwegian officials have supported the idea of including the Arctic into the sphere of NATO’s interests. In your opinion, what has given rise to these statements and what consequences can they have?

Dmitry Medvedev: This question is not for me?

Remark: It is for you as well.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Then it would be better if Mr Prime Minister begins. Russia is not part of NATO, so that our voice comes second in any case.

Remark: The Arctic belongs to us.

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s right, the Arctic belongs to us, to all of us together.

Jens Stoltenberg: The fact that Norway is a NATO member is not in the least an obstacle for us to develop good bilateral relations with Russia. We have been doing this for decades, even during the Cold War, when the international situation was much more complicated, and when there were problems between NATO and the former Soviet Union. So the Norway’s NATO membership does not preclude cooperation with Russia in the Arctic. On the contrary, I would say it is very good that we are part of NATO, so we can develop good relations with Russia in the North.

The fact that NATO has a presence in the Arctic is also part of our cooperation. What is positive here is that NATO and Russia are now working very closely together, there is the Partnership for Peace programme and other forms of cooperation between NATO and Russia, as well as joint exercises. So I do not see any problem in the fact that we are part of NATO on the one hand and developing relations with Russia on the other.

I personally would like to thank President Medvedev for all he has done to make the signing of the treaty possible. Indeed, it is very important that there is political will to sign the treaty. After all, we had been working together for 40 years, as you have said, towards the conclusion of this treaty. I want to thank you and your people who participated in the work on the treaty, which was signed today. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: In my opinion, we could do without NATO in the Arctic because it is part of our common heritage, which, strictly speaking, does not have anything to do with military objectives. We are fully capable of managing there with the use of economic regulation and international agreements we sign. At the same time, of course, NATO has its own policy, which is determined by the alliance itself. In any case, the Russian Federation watches such activity intently and with some concern. Why? Because after all it is an area of peaceful cooperation, economic cooperation, and the presence of a military factor at the very least raises additional issues.

If we talk about the prospects of cooperation, then certainly to my mind they are not linked in any way with an increased presence of the North Atlantic Alliance in the Arctic region. I think that we can use an entirely different foundation for our collaboration. But once again, I would like to emphasise that NATO decides this issue for itself. We would like to see the zone of Arctic cooperation as peaceful and calm, a zone where we can negotiate in the way we have just negotiated with our Norwegian friends.

And I, in turn, would like to thank all participants in the negotiations for their political courage and the resolute decisions that have been taken, which, ultimately, reflect a balance of interests of the parties. I am confident that they will contribute to further development of the strategic partnership between our nations.

Overall, this year has been very busy and productive with first my state visit to Norway and now this working visit that has seen us sign this historic treaty, and this shows that our relations are developing very well and have a good future ahead.

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