Norway says ‘solution’ found in Svalbard cargo dispute with Moscow

Norway's foreign ministry said Wednesday that it had found a "solution" to allow Russian cargo, which was blocked due to sanctions, to reach the Arctic archipelago Svalbard, easing a dispute with Moscow.

Pictured is Svalbard.
Norway has said that it has found a solution to the cargo problem. File photo: People walk through a street during heavy snowfall in Longyearbyen, Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP

The ministry said cargo containers had been blocked since they were transported on Russian vehicles, which were banned from bringing cargo over the border, but now containers would instead be brought using Norwegian vehicles.

“It is positive that this matter has now found a solution,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that two containers with supplies were on their way from mainland Norway to Svalbard on a Norwegian ship.

“It’s important to underline that these solutions have existed all along,” Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde, communications director for Norway’s foreign ministry, told AFP.

The ministry said in its statement that Norway had a “good dialogue” with the Russian side throughout the dispute.

Last week Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires, accusing Oslo of blocking access to the Svalbard archipelago and threatening retaliation.

On Tuesday, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, told lawmakers to consider denouncing a landmark Arctic border treaty with Norway.

In 2010, Russia and Norway signed a treaty on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean, putting to rest a 40-year-old row.

Norway responded by stressing that Oslo and Russia had a “mutual interest” in maintaining the agreement and that the deal did not have a “termination clause”.

Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago and insists on calling it Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February, the West has hit Russia with several rounds of unprecedented sanctions. Last week Norway announced nearly a billion euros of aid to Ukraine.

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Norwegian consul filmed insulting Russians at hotel

Norway’s foreign ministry said it "deeply regretted" an incident after which security footage was shared on social media appearing to show a Norwegian consul insulting Russians at a hotel reception.

Norwegian consul filmed insulting Russians at hotel

In the video, posted on a Telegram channel reputed to be close to the Russian security services on Saturday, a woman introduced as Elisabeth Ellingsen, Norwegian consul in the Arctic city of Murmansk, appears exasperated as she waits for a clean room.

“I hate Russians… Just give me a room… I’m used to clean rooms, I’m from Scandinavia,” she says in the edited version of the footage on the Mash channel.

On Saturday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 500,000 times.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said it “deeply regretted” the incident.

“The sentiments expressed do not reflect Norwegian policy or the Norwegian attitude towards Russia and the Russian people,” it told news wire AFP, adding that the ministry was dealing with the incident “through the appropriate channels”.

According to the website of the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, the Norwegian Consulate General in Murmansk has been temporarily closed since July 1st, due to the “difficult” situation in bilateral relations.

The Norwegian foreign ministry did not specify whether the incident took place before or after the temporary closure of the consulate.

The diplomatic incident comes at a time of great tension in relations between Russia and the West over Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, which has prompted a volley of European and US sanctions against Moscow.Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday called the incident “outrageous”.

Russian diplomatic spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Telegram: “The Russian foreign ministry is considering a reaction to this outrageous act of hatred, nationalism and xenophobia.”