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Moscow says proposals to discuss INF Treaty with US remain on the table

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia is ready to continue the dialogue "without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums"

MOSCOW, December 5. /TASS/. Moscow’s proposals to discuss issues related to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with the United States remain on the table, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, commenting on the ultimatum on the treaty put forward by the US and NATO.

"We [Russia] are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table," she said.

The diplomat said Russia has started considering the US and NATO statement on withdrawing from the INF Treaty in 60 days.

On December 4, the US Embassy handed over to the Russian Foreign Ministry an official note notifying it that Washington would stop adhering to the treaty in 60 unless Russia returned to compliance with it.

"We have admitted these documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal," Zakharova told reporters.

The diplomat noted that Russia has repeatedly stated that these are unfounded accusations, and no evidence had been provided to confirm the US stance. "If they [documents] have been provided by the US side to NATO member-states, why does the US hide them from Russia?" she said.

"No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal," Zakharova stressed. "We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of key pillars of strategic stability and international security."

Hybrid schemes

According to Zakharova, Russia needs to study the text of the treaty and whether it contains a point on suspending the agreement. "The hybrid schemes - 60 days, suspension, freeze - all this is political language," she said. "Experts should study the text [whether it includes issues on the suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the document.] Only after taking into consideration what is written in the treaty, a conclusion can be made on if this is a suspension or a direct withdrawal from it."

Contacts continue

The Russian lawyers are studying the text of the US Embassy’s note and whether it complies with the treaty, the diplomat said. "We have not halted contacts. We are in contact with the US Embassy and they have sent us a note," Zakharova said. "The Russian Embassy in the US is contacting with the US State Department."

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on Tuesday that the US would stop adhering to the treaty unless Russia returned to compliance with it within 60 days. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance gave Russia the last chance to save the arms control deal but "must also start preparing for a world without the Treaty."

On October 20, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would withdraw from the INF Treaty because Russia had allegedly violated it. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called this decision a dangerous move. Berlin and Beijing criticized Washington, London voiced its support for the US, while NATO laid the blame for Trump’s decision on Russia.

The INF deal was concluded on December 8, 1987, and took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). In recent years, Washington has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty. Moscow strongly dismissed the accusations and voiced its own counterclaims against Washington’s non-compliance.