Russia, Norway ease borders, seek oil cooperation

* Russia, Norway agree to scrap visas for some visits

* Hope for Arctic oil and gas cooperation

By Alister Doyle and Gwladys Fouche

OSLO, Nov 2 (BestGrowthStock) – Russia and Norway agreed on Tuesday
to ease frontier controls and said they hoped for cooperation on
oil and gas exploration after a deal earlier this year ended a
four-decade dispute over Arctic seas.

Foreign ministers of the two nations signed a deal in Oslo
enabling people living less than 30 km (19 miles) from the
border to travel in the zone on either side for 15 days by
buying a 20 euro ($28) permit. Currently, visitors need a visa.

The accord would apply to 9,000 people in Norway and 45,000
in Russia, easing ties along a former Cold War boundary.

“It’s an important, small step,” Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov said of the deal he signed with Norwegian
counterpart, Jonas Gahr Stoere. Lavrov said it might be a model
for Russia’s enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland
and Lithuania.

The ministers said the deal was a sign of closer ties after
the two nations signed a deal in September settling a maritime
dividing line off the northern tip of Europe after four decades
of talks.

Parliaments are set to ratify that maritime boundary deal by
the end of 2010. “When it enters into force we would be
discussing specific projects including the joint exploration of
the deposits which are there,” Lavrov said of possible oil and
gas activities.

“There is a great potential for close cooperation between
the two countries in what is one ecosystem,” Stoere said. He
added that each nation would decide within its own region.

Tuesday’s meeting, including Nordic ministers and the
European Union, also agreed to improve cooperation on the
environment, such as a short-cut shipping route between the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as ice on the Arctic Ocean shrinks.

The accords contrasted with a Russian row with Japan over
disputed islands after a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to
one island on Monday. Lavrov said Medvedev planned new visits to
the archipelago. [ID:nLDE6A11HF]

In Europe, a problem with relaxing border controls is that
Norway, Poland and Lithuania are members of the Schengen
border-free area in Europe while Russia is not.

“We are finding a solution that is creative and
Schengen-compatible,” Stoere said of the 30-km travel accord.

Lavrov said any deal to ease Kaliningrad border controls on
the Baltic Sea would have to allow travel for Russians
throughout the enclave, not just 30 km from the borders.

“The (European) Commission seems to be ready to compromise
on this,” he said. He said that Poland was also willing but that
Lithuania was “not yet ready for a similar arrangement.”

Russia, Norway ease borders, seek oil cooperation