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Russia has claims regarding US compliance with Open Skies Treaty, says diplomat

Earlier US President Donald Trump announced the decision to quit the Treaty on Open Skies. Giving the reasoning behind this decision, the US side cited alleged numerous violations committed by Russia

MOSCOW, May 21./TASS/. Russia has a number of concrete and formulated long ago claims regarding the US compliance with the Open Skies Treaty, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday in comments on statements from the US about its claims against Russia.

"Let me draw your attention - it is the Russian side that has clear and long-formulated claims against the Americans as to compliance with this agreement. And today, right now, we will reiterate these claims, these thorny issues," she said. "We described [them] in detail, in particular in February we put together on our resources all the claims that we had, making them publicly available. These are far from all claims, but the most evident," Zakharova said in an interview with Rossiya-24 television.

"For example, we said that since 2017 the US has tightened its approaches to fulfilling this treaty in regard to Russia and since January 2018 several restrictions have been imposed against our country. This is the refusal to grant permission to depart from US rules of air traffic and norms of aviation security and changing special procedures for performing observation flights over the Hawaiian Islands by limiting maximum range of flights from Hickam airbase and the refusal to allow overnight stops on mainland US and many other things," the diplomat said.

Zakharova noted that this is an international treaty that "has a format of implementation, has commitments of parties, which were confirmed on paper." "In view of this, this public debate or public commentaries, mildly speaking, are not enough to draw conclusions on US plans," she explained.

Besides public debate and statements there is the practice of fulfilling treaties and agreements, Zakharova stressed. "There are mechanisms of their implementation, namely, there is a respective commission, where one can come and announce claims. There are also diplomatic channels, upon which we expect certain clarification of the US side in order to shape our attitude to their position. This is routinely and normally done by diplomats. I believe that after this we will formulate our approach," she said.

The Trump administration said on Thursday that it would withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov stressed that the attempts by the US to pass off the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty as a reaction to Russia’s violations have absolutely no basis behind them.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 in Helsinki by 23 member-nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It was drafted with Moscow’s active participation. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the treaty is a major tool of strengthening trust and security. The Open Skies’ main goals are to build transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations. The accord establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Now, the treaty has more than 30 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.

For the past several years, Washington has been accusing Moscow of carrying out the accord in a selective manner and of violating some of its provisions. Russia has also put forward some objections regarding the way the United States has been implementing the agreement. In 2017, Washington imposed some restrictions on Russian observation flights over its territory. Moscow came up with a tit-for-tat response some time later.