– There is a real risk that these research trips are not what they claim to be. But a way for Russia to be able to map important infrastructure for oil and gas. At the same time, there is also a risk that it could be used to carry out sabotage actions, says Ine Eriksen Søreide (H) to NRK.
She chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Storting, and is a former foreign minister.
Earlier this year, the Russian embassy applied to the Norwegian authorities for permission to carry out bottom and sediment surveys in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea.
The applications come from, among other things, a marine research center that is listed on the US sanctions list. The applications are still being processed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sanctioned research environments
One of the research vessels has applied for permission to carry out bottom and sediment surveys in the areas around the Snøhvit field outside Finnmark.
This field is a significant producer of gas which is exported to Europe in liquid form from the Melkøya plant outside Hammerfest.
– Can be used for sabotage
Ine Eriksen Søreide believes the ships should be denied permission to carry out the survey.
– We are in a security policy situation now which means that we have to be very careful and assess the risks very clearly.
She believes that Norway has an important responsibility to safeguard Norwegian interests in the Barents Sea:
– We are also one important and reliable oil and gas supplier for Europe. We have no interest in this type of infrastructure being surveyed by Russia. Especially since it is possible that such mapping can be used to prepare sabotage actions.
She gets support from Per-Willy Amundsen, who is the leader of the justice committee at the Storting:
– The national interests and the nation’s security must always be prioritized in such matters. It is completely unthinkable to give the Russians access to these sea areas, says Amundsen to NRK.
Ap: – We have the right to say no
Nils-Ole Foshaug sits on the foreign affairs and defense committee in the Storting for the Labor Party. He believes that the tense security political situation in Europe should have an impact on the outcome of the applications.
His party also controls the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They haven’t landed the search process. Foshaug is nevertheless ready:
– In our own territorial waters do we have the right to say no. As for these applications – I hope it will be done. These vessels should also be denied access to Norwegian ports, he says.
The Russian embassy in Oslo replies in an e-mail to NRK that this research collaboration does not only deal with environmental protection and marine research, but that it also supports the Norwegian-Russian fisheries collaboration in the north.
– And should the team outside the geopolitical situation, writes Timur Chekanov to NRK.
He is a press guard at the Russian embassy in Oslo.
OUT: – Still for processing
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the applications are still being processed.
– Applications for research permits are processed in line with the law of the sea and in cooperation with the relevant authorities such as the Norwegian Armed Forces, the Coast Guard and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
This is what state secretary Eivind Vad Petersson writes in an e-mail to NRK. He states that the government’s main task is to look after Norwegian interests:
– It is well known that activity that is initially legal can be exploited for purposes that can harm our national security. The Norwegian authorities – the Armed Forces, the Intelligence Service and the Police Security Service – work to prevent and prevent this, he writes in the e-mail.
– These applications should have been flatly rejected
Nils-Ole Foshaug from the Labor Party emphasizes that the Norwegian authorities will probably have difficulties in rejecting all research in coastal areas.
– Outside our own sea areas, we have restrictions when it comes to refusing permits. But within our own territorial waters we may refuse or give partial consent based on the sea court, he says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, recalls that these areas, which are under consideration, neither include port calls nor research in Norwegian territorial waters.
The Progress Party’s Per-Willy Amundsen is very surprised that the applications have been pending at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since February this year:
– These applications should have been flatly rejected straight away, he says.
Probably can’t refuse
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that there are clear limitations within the Law of the Sea as to the extent to which a coastal state can refuse other countries to conduct research further offshore.
– Dit is also a core Norwegian interest to maintain respect for the Right of the Sea and other international law, emphasizes Petersson.
The survey areas, which the Russian authorities have requested to be surveyed, are located outside 12 nautical miles from the coast. This is part of Norwegian territory over which Norway has full sovereignty.
Outside this area, the Norwegian authorities probably have very limited opportunities to refuse applications, without violating the Law of the Sea, NRK is told.
– We must not be naive
Also last year at the same time, the research ships searched «Academician Mstislav Keldysh” and “Professor Moltsjanov» on permission to map the seabed in Norwegian sea areas.
The Norwegian authorities then gave permission for the ships to carry out the research cruises.
Amundsen calls this into question:
– I am similarly surprised to learn, according to NRK, that the same ships were given access to the same areas last year, after the invasion of Ukraine. I find that incomprehensible.
At the same time, he says that the FRP will not intervene in the actual processing of the applications from the Storting. They will wait for the government’s decision.
– Now we first have to see what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does. Then we will follow up from the Storting. We must not be naive when the Russians challenge us. They do that all the time, concludes Amundsen.
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