Soviets reopen long-icy 'sea' talks with Norway

After months of criticizing Norway, the Soviet Union has taken an abrupt turnaround. It has invited its Nordic neighbor to negotiate a boundary line along the continental shelf in the Barents Sea.

The offer came just as the Soviet press peaked in its censure of Norway "for undermining the peace of the Nordic area." Reason for Moscow's ire: Norway's criticism of the Afghan invasion and agreements with the United States for stockpiling weapons.

The Soviets claim the strategic boundary should run straight north-south, except for a loop around the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. The Norwegians claim the line should be equidistant between the two countries.

The two nations do agree there should be a single line between them for both fisheries jurisdiction and the continental shelf.

For two years they have had a provisional agreement for fishing in the contested waters. But the line weaves around both sector and median lines, giving the Soviets more area in the west than the Norwegians get in the east.

But it is not the fish catch that concerns both parties. The nation that has jurisdiction over the sea, as well as the continental shelf, will control all vessels, including submarines, that navigate the waters or planes that fly over.

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