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Hit, but no longer

Following a historic agreement with Denmark, it is hoped that the Russians will now also comply with Norway's sea requirements.


[border dispute] On Monday this week, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) signed a Greenland agreement with Denmark. After more than 70 years of conflict, Norway and Denmark finally agree on an agreement that establishes a border line in the sea area between Svalbard and Greenland. The area cleared this week is 150.000 square miles.

The question is whether this agreement can solve another problem in the High North – the dispute with Russia over the Barents Sea. Gahr Støre has suggested that Russia can now be convinced by the Danish-Norwegian agreement:

- We hope this will send a good signal to others also about how to solve this type of outstanding question, says Gahr Støre to NTB.

But the foreign minister receives little support for his hope of "sending a good signal to others" – implicitly the Russian counterpart in the border dispute in the Barents region. John Kristen Skogan at the Norwegian Institute of Foreign Policy doubts that the agreement will have consequences for the negotiations with Russia.

- The Russians have previously accepted dividing lines based on international law, including during the negotiations with Sweden on Gotland. But the fact that the Russians have agreed to a solution according to the midline principle before, does not necessarily mean that they will let go of the sector principle in the Barents Sea, says Skogan.

Norway and Denmark have long agreed to draw the border between Svalbard and Greenland according to the centerline principle, ie a line that runs midway between the territories of the two states. The centerline principle is what Norway claims must also apply in negotiations with Russia. The sector principle is not widely recognized in international law.

From Norway, it is now hoped that the agreement with Denmark will strengthen Norway in relation to these negotiations. The head of the Foreign Affairs Department, Rolf Einar Fife, has been in Moscow this week to clarify questions about the Norwegian-Russian divide.

Nor does Russia's expert and director at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Arild Moe, believe the deal will be of great significance in relation to Russia.

- It is an interesting process, and the agreement with Denmark strengthens the principle of midline internationally – but how important it is is difficult to measure. There is little reason to believe that it should be a decisive factor, Moe believes. n

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