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Russian, Norwegian foreign ministers to meet in Moscow

MOSCOW, February 17 (RIA Novosti) - The foreign ministers of Russia and Norway will meet in Moscow Friday to discuss problems connected with the fishing industry and delineating maritime borders, as well as energy projects and other important issues, a spokesman said.

"A number of topical bilateral issues will be discussed in the traditionally open spirit of Russian and Norwegian contacts," Mikhail Kamynin said. "In particular, the talks will focus on the demarcation of borders in the Barents Sea and fishing issues in the Spitsbergen region."

Russian trawlers were involved in a spate of incidents with Norwegian border guards toward the end of last year. Two vessels, the Kapitan Gorbachev and the Dmitry Pokramovich, were detained by the Norwegian Coast Guard on October 24, 2005 and released four days after posting bail. The Norwegian authorities had detained the trawlers near Medvezhy Island in the Barents Sea after the boats entered a 12-mile exclusion zone without permission.

The Norwegian authorities accused the ships' crews of unauthorized fish reloading in Norway's territorial waters.

These arrests came in the wake of a more serious drama in the middle of October, when the Norwegian authorities pursued another trawler, the Elektron, for five days across the Barents Sea. The captain had been accused of violating fishing regulations and held two Norwegian border guards on board the ship until it reached Russian territorial waters.

Touching upon other matters, Kamynin said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would also discuss bilateral trade and investment cooperation with his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Stoere.

"The focus will be on prospects for the joint exploration of the oil and gas shelf in northern seas," Kamynin said.

Stoere said Thursday that Oslo and Moscow had talked about the possible role Norwegian companies could play in the Shtokman gas condensate field project.

Norwegian energy groups Statoil and Norsk Hydro are on a shortlist of five Western companies - alongside the U.S. giants Chevron and ConocoPhillips and France's Total - to join Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom in developing the vast Shtokman gas field off the Arctic coast.

According to the spokesman, the two ministers also plan to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue and Moscow's invitation to Russia of a Hamas delegation.

The Norwegian foreign minister started his official visit to Russia on February 14. He has already met with the governor of the Murmansk Region in northern Russia, the governor of St. Petersburg and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

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