Barents Sea Countries Reach Breakthrough Decisions in Nuclear Security Talks

The governments of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council "have reached breakthrough decisions " in talks on nuclear security and nuclear waste disposal in the region, Sweden's Prime Minister Joren Persson told journalists on completion of the Council's session.

"The negotiating parties will shortly prepare for signing a multi-lateral treaty on nuclear security in the Barents region," Persson said.

According to the Swedish Prime Minister, the intergovernmental agreements to be signed during 2003 will make it possible to "launch specific international projects" in such vital areas as nuclear security and nuclear waste disposal.

Persson expressed special thanks to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov for his contribution to the successful outcome of the talks and emphasized that Kasyanov's political support has had a crucial importance for reaching the latest agreements between the Council's members.

On his part, Mikhail Kasyanov told journalists that at Russia's initiative a decision had been made on the most difficult point at issue of late - exemption of equipment imported to Russia for implementation of nuclear security projects from VAT.

This decision is to be shortly endorsed by the Russian Government and submitted to the State Duma (Russia's parliament) for ratification, said Mikhail Kasyanov. He said he was sure that the decision would be ratified before the end of 2003.

At the same time, the Russian Prime Minister pointed out, the Russian legislation allows the Government to bring the new mode of operation into effect prior to its ratification by the parliament. "I think we'll do so," Mikhail Kasyanov said.

He added that the measure was vital to ensure early implementation of the nuclear security projects in the region.

Sweden's Prime Minister pointed out, in turn, that members of the Council are ready to invest "hundreds of millions of US dollars" in nuclear security projects in the Barents Sea region.