- I look forward to meeting Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov in Arkhangelsk, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende said to Parliament recently. But are the two actually meeting? A few days before Brende’s first trip to Russia in more than three years, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is scant about sharing details.
Brendes own statement, delivered during the annual security-policy statement to the parliament, can hardly be interpreted as anything but a statement that a meeting between him and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov is imminent.
After the decision that he should attend was made a month ago, the Norwegian Foreign Minister has stated that Lavrov said the Russians would set up a good program in relation to his visit.
However, whether Brende and Lavrov “only” will meet as attendees at the international Arctic conference that takes place in Arkhangelsk next week, or whether it will be an official meeting and bilateral conversations, remains unclear.
Will not confirm
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry keeps its cards close to its chest:
- We are working on the program for Arkhangelsk. We will bring an update on the program for Brende, including who he is meeting with, either towards the weekend or early next week, says Head of Communications Frode Overland Andersen to High North News.
Overland Andersen last week stated that “one expects the Russian Foreign Minister to attend the Arctic conference”.
High North News has asked both the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Russian authorities about whether it has been confirmed that Lavrov is participating, however, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry avoids answering the question, nor has the Russian side confirmed anything.
First visit since the annexation of Crimea
Brendes upcoming visit to Arkhangelsk next week will be the first official visit to Russia on Foreign Minister level since 2014.
Norway invited Lavrov to attend the High North conference Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø last fall, however, Lavrov declined the invitation.
When Brende gets on the plane heading for Arkhangelsk next week, that is to attend the conference “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue International Forum in Arkhangelsk”, which takes place on Wednesday and Thursday.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will be the keynote speaker, and a series of other international dignitaries are also expected at the conference. Among them is Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who received widespread media attention when he made a stopover in Longyearbyen on his way to the North Pole. Rogozin, who Chairs the country’s Arctic Commission, was on the EU’s, and thus also on Norway’s, sanction list.
Participants from 14 countries
One will also find leaders of major Russian corporations and other international companies active in the Arctic on the list of participants. Public officials and representatives from academia will also constitute a part of the more than 1,500 participants from 14 countries who are expected at the conference. The representatives come from a.o. Great Britain, Denmark, China, Norway, the USA, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland and Japan.
High North News will be present during the whole conference and you can find the program here.
In addition to discussions and round-table panels, President Vladimir Putin will chair a Plenary Session, in an extended session organized by the State Commission for Arctic Development.
Børge Brende will apparently also go to Arkhangelsk on 18-19 October, when Lavrov has invited his Norwegian, Swedish and Finnisch colleagues to the annual Foreign Minister meeting organised by the Barents Council.
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