The background to the treaty

The background to the Treaty concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, which was signed by Norway and Russia in Murmansk on 15 September 2010, goes back more than 40 years.

The background to the Treaty concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, which was signed by Norway and Russia in Murmansk on 15 September 2010, goes back more than 40 years.

In 1967, Norway for the first time proposed to the Soviet Union that the two countries should start negotiations on delimitation of the continental shelf in the Barents Sea. An informal meeting was held in 1970, but talks at senior official level did not begin until 1974.

On 27 April 2010, the Norwegian and Russian foreign ministers signed a joint statement in Oslo, announcing that the two countries’ negotiating delegations had reached preliminary agreement on delimitation, following negotiations that had covered all related issues.

The Russian position has been that the delimitation line should follow a sector line running roughly along longitude 32˚E northwards from the Russian coastline. This was based on the Soviet decree of 1926 on the annexation of the territories north of the Soviet mainland between the westernmost and easternmost points of the northern coastline of its land territory. In the 1970s the Soviet Union also invoked the sector line as a basis for the delimitation of sea areas.

The Norwegian position has been that the delimitation line should follow a mathematically computed median line, every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the Norwegian and Russian coastlines. The Norwegian claim was based on the provisions of the Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1958, which prescribes the application of a median line unless another boundary line is justified by special circumstances.

International jurisprudence, with the International Court of Justice in The Hague at the forefront, has during the past few decades helped to significantly clarify the complex issues of fact and law that arise in connection with maritime delimitation. Basically, it has consolidated a coherent method that also takes into account any geographical peculiarities there may be in the sea area in question. As a first step, a hypothetical median line is computed that is considered equitable from a mathematical point of view. The next step is to assess whether there are any geographical peculiarities that would render a median line solution inequitable. There may be reason to adjust or move the delimitation line, particularly in cases where there are major disparities in the parties’ coastal lengths, as is the case for Norway and Russia, especially in the southern Barents Sea.

In 2007 Norway and Russia reached agreement on maritime delimitation in the Varangerfjord area, the southernmost part of the disputed area, closest to the mainland. The area covered by this agreement is relatively small, but sensitive. The agreement on the Varangerfjord area established a 73-kilometre-long maritime boundary for the territorial sea, the contiguous zones, the economic zones and the continental shelf. The agreement is based on modern principles of maritime delimitation and was well received in both countries.

The conclusion of the treaty on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean is a contribution to the implementation of the provisions of the law of the sea in the Arctic Ocean, which is referred to as the applicable legal framework in the Ilulissat Declaration, the declaration made by the five coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Russia, the US and Norway) on 28 May 2008 at the Arctic Ocean Conference in Ilulissat, Greenland. The treaty on maritime delimitation is an example of an agreement where outstanding issues are resolved in accordance with international law, in keeping with the commitment made by the parties in the declaration.

In the far north, the Norwegian and Russian continental shelves meet the deep ocean floor, which constitutes the international seabed area. Norway and Russia have cooperated on surveying the outer limits of their respective continental shelves in the north, among other things by exchanging data. In March 2009, the outer limits of Norway's continental shelf were established on the basis of the recommendations made by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

The Commission's recommendations did not affect the maritime delimitation between Norway and Russia.

 

 

 

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