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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Norway, Russia to Sign Deal on Arctic Border

Itar-TassJens Stoltenberg
Norway's and Russia's prime ministers agreed Friday to sign a deal demarcating the sea border between their countries in the outer Varangerfjord in the Arctic within days.

"We have agreed in principle to sign a deal on Varangerfjord within the next few days," Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said after meeting his Norwegian counterpart, Jens Stoltenberg, in Moscow.

Norway hopes the partial deal will be a step toward resolving a decades-old border dispute between the neighbors over an area in the Barents Sea half the size of Germany that geologists say could hold significant oil and gas resources.

"The last time Norway and Russia signed a border agreement was in 1957. That deal comprised the inner parts of the Varangerfjord," Stoltenberg said, Interfax reported.

"I think that our further work will take us to a stage where we will be able to sign an agreement setting down a demarcating line in unresolved regions of the Barents Sea," he said.

Stoltenberg will meet President Vladimir Putin this weekend on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Officials have said the Barents Sea could become an important new source of petroleum to supply Europe, but development has been hindered by the unresolved dispute.

So far, the only petroleum development in the Barents is Norwegian group Statoil's Snohvit gas field, which is set to come on stream toward the end of this year and supply liquefied natural gas mainly to the U.S. East Coast. In the Russian sector of the Barents Sea lies the undeveloped Shtokman gas field, one of the world's biggest.

Kommersant reported Friday that Stoltenberg was planning to propose setting up a free economic zone with Russia to serve the Shtokman gas field.

Stoltenberg wants to create the zone around Norway's Sor-Varanger municipality and the Russian cities of Pechenega and Nikel, where Norilsk Nickel also operates, the newspaper said.

Also Friday, Russia and Norway concluded a bilateral agreement to facilitate visas.

Under the agreement, the procedure for issuing single-entry, three-month visas will be simplified, as will obtaining multiple-entry visas for official delegations, businessmen, students and journalists.

Reuters, MT, Bloomberg