Russia And Norway To Join Forces During Disasters At Sea

Friday, September 29, 2000
Russia and Norway signed an accord on Friday committing them immediately to alert their neighbor of any sea accidents such as the underwater explosion that sank a Russian submarine last month.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg signed a memorandum in Oslo, which also included a plan to start joint search and rescue exercises.

"We agree that we will expand, tighten and strengthen the duty to give the alert about accidents at sea," Stoltenberg was reported as saying at a joint news conference in Oslo after meetings with Kasyanov.

Norwegian divers helped Russia in its rescue work after the Kursk submarine sank in the Arctic Barents Sea about 150 miles from NATO-member Norway, killing all 118 onboard. Russia did not warn the world about the disaster for several days.

"We also want training in cases of accidents to make sure that when an accident happens the alert system will work as intended so that we can act as quickly as possible to limit the damage and save lives," Stoltenberg said. "I hope that we can move quickly to start the exercises."

Kasyanov reportedly said the ministers had decided to aim for "greater openness and greater mutual exchange of information."

But he was tight-lipped on the negotiations to recover the bodies of the Kursk crew. Russia had been due to sign a deal with Norwegian Stolt Offshore last week, but it fell through in a disagreement over costs.

Kasyanov said the issue was a "very important and sensitive question for society."

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