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15 Nov, 2007 12:48

300-year treasure riddle to be solved?

A mystery dating back to Catherine the Great’s time will hopefully be cleared up this week when Russian and Finnish officials gather to discuss the fate of an 18th century ship. The Virgin Mary sank near Finland while carrying treasures.

The ship was discovered in 1999 by Finnish divers, but it's thought any rescue operation will cost $US 40 million.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his Finnish counterpart Ilkka Kanerva have met in the Finnish city of Rovaniemi to discuss who owns the treasure.

“Experts have met and discussed the issue. We are satisfied with the results of their meeting. They have agreed to continue working and find a neutrally acceptable solution. I am confident that this will happen,” Lavrov said.  

The ministers’ meeting is part of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) forum which deals with regional economic and environmental issues in the Barents region.

Speaking at the forum, the Russian Foreign Minister also said international observers will definitely be invited to the country's Presidential Election in 2008.

The BEAC will also cover environmental and trade issues, along with planned joint training exercises for rescue services.  

Established in 1993, the BEAC meets at Foreign Ministers level in the chairmanship country at the end of term of office. The chairmanship rotates every second year, between Norway, Finland, Russia and Sweden. Finland took over the chair from Norway in November 2005 for the period 2005-2007, and will be followed by Russia 2007-2009.