Russia and Norway have signed an Arctic border pact, ending a 40-year dispute over an energy-rich area in the Barents Sea.

The Treaty on Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean was signed on Wednesday in the Russian northern seaport of Murmansk by the Russian and Norwegian Foreign Ministers in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Under the treaty Russia and Norway will equally divide the long-contested 176,000 sq. km. zone that lies off their Arctic coastlines and is believed to be rich in oil and gas.

It is the second most important border pact post-Soviet Russia signed with its neighbours after the border delimitation treaty with China.

The establishment of a maritime boundary between Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean culminated 40 years of border talks between the two countries and ended a 30-year moratorium on tapping oil and gas deposits in the area.

Mr. Medvedev said the “historic” treaty opened the way to joint energy projects between the two countries. The Barents Sea contains 7.6 billion so-called “tonnes of equivalent fuel”, according to Russia's Natural Resources Ministry.

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