Last April, the Norwegian and Russian foreign ministers announced that they had begun talks on resolving the 40-year dispute over the maritime border between their two countries in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. In October, Foreign Ministers Jonas Gahr Støre and Sergei Lavrov met again, in Murmansk, this time to sign an treaty on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents and Arctic. Now, the Stortinget (Norway’s parliament), has unanimously ratified the “Treaty between the Kingdom of Norway and the Russian Federation concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean” (PDF, English).
Barents Observer reports that no members of the Stortinget voiced negative opinions regarding the agreement, a remarkable feat for a parliamentary body with seven parties. Norway is undoubtedly concerned with building upon its ties with Russia, as Støre mentioned in his speech at the Arctic Frontiers conference in January.
While Russia’s parliament has not yet ratified the treaty, Støre remarked in Norwegian, “The Russian process is on track based on the signals I’ve gotten, even if it was not possible to achieve full parallelism. I think the signals from Oslo will be noticed.” In Russia, the treaty must first pass through the lower house, the State Duma. Then, if successful, the treaty will go on to the upper house, the Federation Council, for a final vote.
Støre added that the deal marks the dawn of a new epoch for Norwegian-Russian relations, as it resolves what was one of the biggest sticking point between the two Arctic neighbors. The agreement not only delineates the waters and resources on the continental shelf under the Barents Sea, but it also establishes a procedure for resolving disputes over transboundary resources like hydrocarbons and fish stocks. For instance, the Unitisation Agreement stipulates that Russia and Norway will jointly operate any oil or gas fields deemed to be straddling the border. This is a major step forward for both countries in the global oil industry. Norway stands to gain access to more resources, while Russia will enjoy greater use of state-of-the-art Norwegian technology and management expertise. More information about unitization can be found here, in an article on shared energy resources by Vladimir Socor (PDF).
“Unanimously approved,” Barents Observer
“Historic maritime delimitation treaty between Russia and Norway,” The Research Council of Norway
“Treaty on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean,” Geopolitics in the High North