US embassy cable - 06OSLO213

NORWEGIAN FM STOERE TALKS HIGH NORTH WITH THE RUSSIANS

Identifier: 06OSLO213
Wikileaks: View 06OSLO213 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Oslo
Created: 2006-02-24 17:35:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL ENRG SENV EFIS RS NO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L  OSLO 000213 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2016 
TAGS: PREL, ENRG, SENV, EFIS, RS, NO 
SUBJECT: NORWEGIAN FM STOERE TALKS HIGH NORTH WITH THE RUSSIANS 
 
Classified By: Acting Pol/Econ Counselor Doug Apostol 
               for reasons 1.4 b and d 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  High North energy and fisheries issues were 
at the top of the agenda during Norwegian FM Stoere's 
February 15-17 visit to Russia.  Stoere met with Russian FM 
Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev in Moscow and 
called on regional governors in Murmansk and St. Petersburg 
during the visit.  The Norwegian MFA told us that Russian 
signals on Norwegian participation in development of the 
Shtokman natural gas field were positive and that some 
progress (but no breakthroughs) were made on delimiting the 
Barents maritime border and lifting a Russian ban on fresh 
salmon.  Stoere and Lavrov discussed Iran and Hamas as well. 
On Iran, Lavrov told Stoere that he was not optimistic that 
Iran would accept the Russian proposal to enrich uranium fuel 
in its reactors.  Lavrov said that he would press Hamas to 
soften its stance on Israel and abide by earlier agreements. 
He and Stoere agreed that donors should work to support Abbas 
and the Palestinians and not "starve them out."  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (C) On February 23, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry gave 
the diplomatic corps a readout of Foreign Minister Stoere's 
February 15-17 visit to Russia, including meetings with FM 
Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev.  Stoere's trip 
included stops in Murmansk, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.  We 
also met separately with Deputy Director General Robert Kvile 
to further discuss energy and other High North issues. 
 
HIGH NORTH ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
3.  (C)  FM Stoere's meeting with Deputy Prime Minister 
Medvedev focused on the Norwegian-Russian energy 
"partnership," particularly in the High North.  Though 
Medvedev, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Gazprom, 
did not say directly that Norwegian companies were a lock to 
participate in the Shtokman gas field project in the Barents, 
the signals were positive.  Medvedev told Stoere there were 
"good reasons" for Norway and Russia to be strategic partners 
in energy.  Russia was also keen to boost economic 
cooperation in other sectors, including telecommunications. 
(Note:  Two-way trade between Russia and Norway was up 66 
percent last year, much of it in increased Norwegian seafood 
exports.  End note.)  Stoere also passed Medvedev (and 
Lavrov) a non-paper on Norway's views on energy security, the 
theme of this summer's G8 Summit hosted by Russia.  (Post has 
e-mailed a copy of the non-paper that appeared on the MFA's 
web site to EB/ESC/IEC.)  Norway's possible participation in 
the G8 talks discussions on energy security was discussed; 
the Russians are aware of Norway's desire to participate in 
the G8 Summit in some capacity but have issued no invitations 
"yet," according to the MFA. 
 
4.  (C) In Murmansk, regional governor Yevlikimov told Stoere 
candidly that he and other local officials strongly supported 
Norwegian companies' bids for a share of the Shtokman project 
and had told the Kremlin so directly.  (Norway's two major 
petroleum firms, Norsk Hydro and Statoil, are in the running 
for a share of the project.)  Kvile told us later that 
Statoil was angling for a 25 percent share, but that was 
probably unrealistically large if Gazprom, as is likely, 
chooses three or four partners. 
 
 
TALKS ON BARENTS BORDER, SVALBARD FISHERIES AND FISH IMPORT BAN 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
5.  (C) Stoere and Lavrov discussed the longstanding Barents 
border issue and, although the tone of the conversation was 
positive, there were "no revelations," according to the MFA. 
Norway's negotiating team was (coincidentally) in Moscow this 
week for expert level talks on technical delimitation issues. 
 Kvile told us later that Norway's February 21 agreement with 
Denmark on the Greenland-Svalbard border was based on the 
median line principle, giving a stronger basis for the 
Norwegians' median line approach to the Barents.  Kvile that 
that given the potentially significant energy resources at 
stake, any agreement with the Russians will be a compromise 
and that Norway will need to move off its median line 
argument to reach a deal. 
 
6.  (C) During his stop in Murmansk, Stoere explained to 
local fishermen Norwegian policy on monitoring foreign 
vessels' catches in Svalbard archipelago waters.  Norway 
expects countries to abide by bilateral catch agreements 
within the 200-mile Fisheries Protection Zone around the 
archipelago and reserves the right to inspect vessels to 
ensure catch limits are not exceeded.  The MFA said Stoere 
was very direct with local fishermen, insisting that Norway 
had a sound legal basis for its inspection regime and that 
other states were welcome to "take their complaints to the 
Hague." 
 
7.  (C) Stoere also made progress in resolving the flap over 
Russia's two-month-old ban on Norwegian fresh fish imports. 
Norwegian and Russian experts were meeting again this week to 
seek a deal to lift the ban.  (Note:  Norway exported $533 
million worth of seafood to Russia in 2005; Russia is the 
third largest and fastest growing market (50 percent growth 
in 2005) for Norwegian salmon.  End Note.) 
 
IRAN AND HAMAS 
- - - - - - - - 
 
8.  (C) Lavrov and Stoere discussed how to deal with the 
Iranians, who were in Moscow that week for talks on the 
Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran on its soil. 
Lavrov told Stoere that he was "not pessimistic but did not 
expect much" from the Iranian delegation.  He called 
prospects for success of the Russian proposal "a long shot," 
but said it was important to keep talking to the Iranians. 
 
9.  (C) Lavrov said Russia's message to Hamas leaders in 
their upcoming visit to Moscow would be to soften their 
stance on Israel.  Russia would support a Hamas dominated 
Palestinian government that moved toward dialogue with 
Israel.  The MFA said Lavrov and Stoere agreed there was no 
need to "starve out" the Palestinians under Hamas, which 
enjoyed strong grass-roots support, and that donor countries 
should continue to support President Abbas for now. 
 
AMEC 
- - - 
 
10.  (C) The MFA said Lavrov asked Stoere about Norway's 
commitment to the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation 
Program (AMEC) (to dismantle decommissioned Russian 
submarines and for nuclear clean-up on the Kola peninsula). 
Stoere gave an assessment of progress and said Norway had no 
intention of ceasing its participation, at least for now. 
Kvile told us after the main briefing that Norway was moving 
toward bilateral cooperation with Russia on Kola clean-up 
programs rather than working exclusively through the AMEC 
structure. 
 
COMMENT:  HIGH NORTH IS FRONT AND CENTER 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
11.  (C) Stoere put High North issues front and center (as he 
has been doing with us) during his road show through Russia. 
By starting his first official visit to Russia in Murmansk, 
Stoere sent a strong signal about the importance Norway 
places on High North issues and Oslo's eagerness to cooperate 
closely with Moscow in responsibly managing Barents region 
resources.  Norwegian engagement with Russia on the High 
North is paying dividends--an inside track for a piece of 
Shtokman for Norwegian companies, movement on Barents border 
discussions, and progress in ending the fresh seafood ban. 
On the other hand, the visit produced no breakthroughs and 
Norwegian officials are already downplaying prospects for any 
major announcements on Shtokman, the maritime border, or 
other top agenda items when Russian Prime Minister Fradkov 
visits here in late March. 
 
Visit Oslo's Classified website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/oslo/index.cf m 
 
WHITNEY 

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