* Norwegian, Chinese relations nearly frozen
* Norway to join CNOOC's licence off Iceland
* Norway has right under 1981 treaty to take licence stake
OSLO, Nov 22 Norway said it would team up with a
Chinese firm to explore for oil offshore Iceland, in a rare
cooperation for the two countries since a diplomatic row over
the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu
Norway has the right to join an exploration licence with
Chinese oil firm CNOOC in the waters between Iceland
and Norway's Jan Mayen island, and Norway's government decided
it should participate.
"Icelandic authorities are now planning to allocate an
additional licence as part of the second licensing round, and
Norway should participate," the oil ministry said in a statement
Diplomatic ties between Beijing and Oslo have been virtually
frozen since the 2010 Peace Prize, and collaboration in Iceland
may be a sign that relations could be improving.
Under a 1981 treaty, Norway has a right to take a 25 percent
stake in Iceland's oil licences.
Iceland awarded its first two licences in January, in which
Norway decided to participate. In June it gave another licence
to CNOOC and Icelandic firm Eykon Energy, the first for a
Chinese firm to look for oil in the Arctic.
China is keen to find natural resources, and the Arctic
could hold some 90 billion barrels of oil equivalent, according
to the U.S. Geological Survey. In April China signed a free
trade deal with Iceland that abolished tariffs.
Norway's Conservative-led government took office last month,
and China has signalled that it is up to Norway to repair the
relationship, which has damaged business ties and prevented
Statoil from exploring for shale gas in China.
Iceland, still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, is
keen to develop its natural resources to help spur its economy.