Solberg calls on Russia to respect other nations’ borders
Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaking to reporters at the town square in Kirkenes at the 70th anniversary of the Red Army's liberation of Finnmark from Nazi-German occupation.(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
Norway’s Prime Minister says it is important to thank Russia for their liberation of Finnmark 70 years ago, but calls on Moscow to respect international law today.
Erna Solberg was sitting near to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as the official ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Finnmark took place at the town square in Kirkenes Saturday.
Speaking to press after Norway’s King Harald had laid wreaths at the monument to the mothers and children during the war, Solberg gave a clear message to Russia when asked about the current tense relations.
”We don’t have a need to improve the relations to Russia, it is Russia that has a need to improve its relation to the rest of the world. That is actually a step they have to take,” Solberg said.
The Prime Minister, however, highlighted that this anniversary is not a meeting place for conflict, but for expressing gratitude to Norway’s neighbour in the northeast.
“It is not difficult to thank for what happened 70 years ago. At that time, the Soviet Union and most of our international friends in war with Nazi-Germany.”
In his speech, Norway’s King Harald expressed a strong “thank you” for the Red Army’s liberation of Finnmark. “We will never forget what the Soviet people did so that the bells half a year later could call across all of Europe, proclaiming that the sufferings of war were over, and that peace again could descend over our continent,” the King said with emotions.
Erna Solberg said to reporters it is important to learn from history.
“A Europe in conflict as it was 70 years ago is something we should lay behind us. The destiny for people is the same today; war and conflict harms mostly the civilian population,” Solberg said with a clear message to what happens in Eastern Ukraine.
“Russia must follow up the peace plan and we must see changes from the Russia side.”
Asked about how to restore good relations between Norway and Russia, Prime Minister Solberg called on Russia to change course:
“It is important for us to return to good relations, relations that now are partly suspended because of Russia’s own behaviors,” Solberg said.
“Russia must abstain from giving more support to the separatist movement and the rebels in parts of Ukraine.”
Norway has frozen military cooperation and top political meetings with Russia after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support to Pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. Norway has also imposed the same set of sanctions against Russia as the European Union because of Moscow’s violation of international law.