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Other countries may leave Open Skies Treaty after US, says senior Russian diplomat

Russia calls for exerting all efforts to salvage Open Skies Treaty, said Sergei Ryabkov

MOSCOW, July 4. /TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry does not rule out that other countries can exit the Treaty on Open Skies after the United States withdraws from it, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS on Saturday.

"The more substantive question is: what will happen to the treaty itself [after the US withdraws from it]? That depends on several factors. To begin with, will some other countries follow in the United States’ footsteps? Secondly, will we be provided guarantees of non-transfer by the United States’ allies in the treaty of the data that these allies collect during flights over our territory as part of Open Skies missions? We need solid guarantees of that," he said.

On May 21, US President Donald Trump declared Washington’s intention to quit the Treaty on Open Skies, which enables the signatories to perform flights over each other’s territory to monitor military activity. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo explained in a written statement that this decision would take effect in six months’ time after May 22. The US claimed that Russia’s alleged violations of the agreement were the reason. Moscow rejected these accusations, saying that it is committed to the treaty and put forward counterclaims.

A conference of the signatories to the Treaty on Open Skies devoted to the United States’ pullout from it will be held on July 6. The participants will discuss the prospects of that international agreement after the United States’ statement on its plans to withdraw from the treaty.

Decision to quit Open Skies Treaty

Russia is absolutely sure that the United States will not change its decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies despite the conference on the issue scheduled to be held on July 6 and other events, Sergei Ryabkov told TASS on Saturday.

"We are absolutely sure that, in spite of any events due to be held before November 22, which include a special conference scheduled to be held on Monday, a regular review conference on the accord due in early October and meetings of the Open Skies Consultative Commission in Vienna at the level of the delegations of the permanent missions, Washington will not deviate from the decision to leave the treaty," he said.

According to Ryabkov, the problem is "the United States systematically quits international arms control agreements and destroys the entire architecture in this area." "The withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies is just one of the elements of that policy. Accordingly, everything will be brought to the logical conclusion, and the United States will not be a signatory to the treaty on November 23," he said.

Exerting all efforts to salvage Open Skies Treaty

Western countries should make every effort to ensure the viability of the Treaty on Open Skies, said Sergei Ryabkov.

"We do not rule out any options for ourselves," he said. "We will make it abundantly clear to our colleagues on Monday [at an online conference on the Open Skies Treaty] so that they have no illusions."

"If our counterparts are interested in preserving the treaty, they should make every effort to ensure its viability, in particular, work with the United States on the inadmissibility of further destructive steps by Washington," Ryabkov stressed.