SOCHI, May 14. /TASS/. Aviation authorities of Russia and the United States and US airlines should sign an agreement on transit across the territory of Russia by the end of this year, Acting Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told reporters on Monday.
"Such an agreement should be signed by the end of the year not merely with US air carriers but also with US aviation authorities at the level of the Russian Ministry of Transport and Russian aviation authorities. Certain arrangements must be achieved there, which should definitely satisfy our country and our transport sector from the political and the economic standpoint, the official said.
Russia expects to hold talks with the United States on air communication in the near future, he added. "We are preparing our position. First of all, it will be based on the interests of Russia, development of the transport industry. It will be an informed decision, but we need to come to it. We are formulating our position now. We expect to hold official negotiations with our American partners in the near future," he said.
Earlier, US airlines have asked the State Department to help extend permission to fly through the airspace of Russia.
The problems became known in mid-April: transit permits were valid until April 17, then the State Department said that the Russian Transport Ministry had postponed negotiations on this issue. The next day the Ministry of Transport extended the permission for transit flights to American air carriers on three routes until the end of October this year.
Commenting on the issue of US visas for Aeroflot crews, Sokolov told reporters that there is no critical situation with US visas of Aeroflot crews and the issue can be resolved in the course of the nearest talks.
"This is not a challenge now. In other words, there is no critical situation but this is an issue. In particular, we expect to close it out within the framework of our talks," the Minister said.
Earlier in April, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia and the US could be left without direct flights due to the difficulties the crews of the Russian Aeroflot flagship carrier have with getting US visas. The ministry recalled that the obligation to issue visas to aircrews had been enshrined in the 1994 Russian-US Air Transport Agreement. Aeroflot later confirmed its crews were facing difficulties with getting US visas.
The news that Aeroflot’s crews may face problems with extending or obtaining US visas broke in early April. The US Embassy in Moscow refuted reports that it refused to issue US visas to Aeroflot’s staff. It linked possible problems with getting US visas with a high demand and diplomatic staff cuts.