The Russian-Norwegian agreement on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean offers great opportunities for the development of business relations between the two countries in a wide range of industries, primarily in oil and gas, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store told Itar-Tass in an interview. On June 7 in Oslo he will exchange ratification instruments with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and a month after that the treaty will formally enter into force. "The upcoming event is very pleasant for our countries, because as a result of years-long negotiations the most complicated issue in bilateral relations has been resolved," said the Norwegian minister. He said the natural wealth of the region should unite neighbors, and not alienate them.
"The existence of clear boundaries is the only politically correct approach. And it can expand current cooperation between the two countries," said Store. "For example, we have already worked out a mutually beneficial partnership arrangement in the fishing sector, and both countries are now expecting more," he said.
The minister believes that "the countries have left behind old prejudices."
"The situation has changed, and in the Arctic we see that we have so many common interests," he said.
"After the solution of the delimitation problem we have no other burning foreign policy issues," Store stated. Further work, he said, should be focused on such tasks as simplifying of the process of crossing the state border and reducing bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation. Two issues that remain relevant for Norway, he said, are environmental pollution in the north and the difficulties in obtaining Russian visas for representatives of Norwegian NGOs.
Bilateral talks on the division of the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean lasted about 40 years. In accordance with the treaty signed by the ministers in Murmansk on September 15, 2010, the new boundary line will divide the disputed area of 175.2 thousand square kilometers roughly in halves. The agreement has been ratified by the parliaments of both countries.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Before the last ship, the MV Sun Sea, left Thailand in July carrying almost 500 Sri Lankan migrants including senior members of LTTE, the smugglers made the passengers sign contracts that spelled out how much each owed for the journey to Canada.The contracts were then mailed to Norway, ostensibly for safekeeping. They were, after all, valuable receipts. They were proof of millions worth of uncollected debts, not to mention highly sensitive. The problem was, they were mailed to the wrong address. According to newly released details of the case, the contracts — in which Sun Sea passengers pledged to pay the smugglers between $5,000 and $30,000 upon reaching Canada — were mislabelled and delivered to the wrong person.
The recipient handed them to Norwegian police, who passed them on to their Canadian counterparts. The gaffe has given Canadian officials a unique insight into the smugglers’ system of payment, which involved an up-front deposit of about $5,000 and a hefty debt that was to be paid off after arrival in Canada. It has also linked the smuggling operation to Norway.
The Norwegian connection and the blunder that brought it to light are described in a transcript of an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing held in Vancouver on April 7. A declassified copy of the transcript was recently released to the National Post.
“Now, these are a series of payment contracts signed by various individuals who ended up travelling on the MV Sun Sea,” Kenny Nicolaou, a Canada Border Services Agency representative, explained at the hearing.
“You can see the general tenor of the contract. Essentially it says, ‘I paid this much up front, depending on the situation, and I owe this much, who this family member in Canada pledges to pay on my behalf once I arrive.”
Mr. Nicolaou said the Sun Sea’s arrival in Canada was “the end result of a sophisticated, well organized, for profit human smuggling operation orchestrated by a network of agents in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.”
Boarding began in April 2010 and occurred in “continuing waves” until the ship sailed for Canada on July 5. An “intricate network of agents” organized the effort, he said. “It was well organized and it was designed to generate large sums of money.”
The Sun Sea arrived off the British Columbia coast last August carrying 492 Sri Lankan migrants who had contracted smugglers to ferry them from Thailand. All have made refugee claims. The Canadian government has spent more than $25-million so far dealing with the ship.
In all likelihood, Canadian authorities already knew about the Sun Sea by the time the contracts were intercepted. But the package would have given them advance notice about who was on board, how much they had paid and how much they still owed the smuggling syndicate.
The CBSA raised the Norwegian matter at the hearing of a Sun Sea migrant whom the government alleges was involved in the smuggling operation. The man’s lawyer downplayed the significance of the documents, saying “there is no credible evidence before the board to say that these are the contracts that the people on board the Sun Sea were a party to.”
The IRB has sealed all the exhibits related to the Sun Sea refugee cases.
The RCMP is investigating the suspected organizers of the Sun Sea and Ocean Lady, the ship that smuggled 76 Sri Lankan migrants to Canada in 2009. To date, the IRB has ruled that four of the Sun Sea migrants were members of the Tamil Tigers rebel group.
The intended recipient of the contracts was not identified in the transcript but Norway has a large Sri Lankan population and is the base of the Nediyavan faction of the Tamil Tigers. The head of the Nediyavan group, Perinpanayagam Sivaparam, was arrested in Olso last month.
Dutch police reportedly want to question him about an alleged Tamil Tigers fundraising network that has been extorting money from ethnic Tamils in the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities arrested seven suspects in April.
The European case is similar to the RCMP’s recent investigation of the World Tamil Movement, a Toronto-based rebel front group that raised millions to support the Tamil Tigers until the federal government banned it in 2008, shut it down and seized its assets, National Post reports.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre has gone to the Middle East for political talks till 13. January 2011.
The foreign minister will hold political talks in Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territory and Syria.The purpose of the trip is to have talks with political leaders about the political situation in the region and on the status of negotiations towards a two-state solution. The Foreign Minister will also have meetings on the plans for the completion of the Palestinian state-building project aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in 2011. World Bank pointed out in early September last year that state-building agenda has come far advanced and is technically possible in 2011. These statements increase the expectations for progress in the political track toward a two-state solution, while peace talks have stopped completely over the issue of freezing settlement.