MOSCOW — Russia and Norway signed an agreement Wednesday on their maritime border in the energy-rich Barents Sea, ending a dispute that has dragged on for decades.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said after the signing that the deal would strengthen stability in the region and enhance economic cooperation between the two neighbors.
"We have been trying to reach this agreement for 40 years," Medvedev said after his talks with Stoltenberg in Russia's Arctic port of Murmansk. "It will turn a new page in our relations. Delineating the border in the region where our interests meet is a key step forward."
Stoltenberg praised the deal as sending a signal to the world about the region.
"The Arctic is a peaceful region where any issues that arise are resolved in accordance with international law," he said.
NATO member Norway and Russia failed to agree on a maritime border in the Barents Sea during the Cold War and difficult talks dragged on following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Interest in the Arctic region has intensified amid evidence that global warming is shrinking the sea ice, opening up new shipping lanes and opportunities to explore rich oil and gas deposits.
Stoltenberg said the agreement has "opened a new era of cooperation between the two countries," allowing both Russia and Norway to go ahead with big energy projects.
The two countries have already begun tapping mineral riches buried beneath the floor of the Barents Sea.
The Norwegian oil company Statoil brought its Snoehvit natural gas field on line in 2007. Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom, in conjunction with Statoil and France's Total, is developing the Shtokman gas field.