OSLO, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Norway's ruling Conservative Party is willing to abstain from oil and gas exploration in a key Arctic region for another four years, in return for continued parliamentary support for its minority government, tabloid VG reported online on Wednesday.
The fish-rich waters surrounding the Lofoten, Vesteraalen and Senja region have for years been off limits to drillers as a way for governments to secure backing for their broader agendas from parties focused on protecting the environment.
Oil producers, including Statoil, Aker BP and Lundin Petroleum, have long sought access to explore near the islands, believing more than a billion barrels of oil could be found.
Since 2013, the government of the Conservatives and the populist Progress Party has relied on the backing of the smaller Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats in return for keeping the area oil-free.
The four parties last week won a fresh majority in Norway's parliamentary election, but have not agreed on a common platform. Talks on how - and whether - to formalise their cooperation will start later this week.
Quoting Conservative Party sources, VG said a deal to protect Lofoten and the rest of the region should allow drilling to continue in all other areas that are currently open to oil firms. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche)