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MOSCOW, August 29 (Itar-Tass) — A team of US inspectors in the period from 29 August to 3 September perform an observation flight on an airplane OC-135B over Russian territory within the framework of the International Treaty on Open Skies, the Russian Defence Ministry’s information and press department told Itar-Tass on Monday.
“The plane belongs to a class of aircraft that are not designed to carry any weapons,” the RF Defence Ministry specified. “The installed on it aerial photographic equipment has passed the required international certification, a procedure in which Russian experts also took part.” The flight will take place on the agreed route in strict compliance with international agreements on the use of surveillance technology, the Defence Ministry added.
In turn, a group of Russian inspectors during the period from August 28 to September 5 performs an observation flight over the US territory on a Tupolev Tu-154 LK-1 plane. On its board Russian specialists together with the American colleagues monitor the implementation of the agreements and arrangements on the use of surveillance equipment. According to the RF Ministry of Defence, this year it is already the 24th flight of Russian observers over the territories of the states signatories to the Treaty.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed by 27 states in 1992 and ratified by all parties in 1995. The main objective of the Open Skies regime is to develop openness and transparency, help monitor the implementation of existing or future agreements on arms control and to enhance crisis prevention and crisis management possibilities within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and in other relevant international organisations. In the future it is planned to extend the Open Skies regime to new spheres such as the environment protection.
The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international efforts to date promoting openness and transparency of military forces and activities. The concept of “mutual aerial observation” was initially proposed to Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin at the Geneva Conference of 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower; however, the Soviets promptly rejected the concept and it lay dormant for several years. The treaty was eventually signed as an initiative of US president (and former Director of Central Intelligence) George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the agreement was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992.
This treaty is not related to civil-aviation open skies agreements.
The 34 State Parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not yet ratified. Canada and Hungary are the depositories of the treaty in recognition of their special contribution to the Open Skies process. “Depository” countries maintain treaty documents and provide administrative support.
The treaty is of unlimited duration and open to accession by other States. States of the former Soviet Union that have not already become States Parties to the treaty may accede to it at any time. Applications from other interested States are subject to a consensus decision by the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), the Vienna-based organisation charged with facilitating implementation of the treaty, to which all States Parties belong. Eight states have acceded to the treaty since entry into force: Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Cyprus’ application for accession is pending before the OSCC.
The Open Skies regime covers the territory over which the State Party exercises sovereignty, including land, islands, and internal and territorial waters. The treaty specifies that the entire territory of a State Party is open to observation. Observation flights may only be restricted for reasons of flight safety; not for reasons of national security.