MOSCOW, July 7. /TASS/. A number of member nations of the Treaty on Open Skies have confirmed their readiness to resume observation flights under the treaty before the yearend, Oleg Bushuyev, head of the section for control over conventional weapons of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, said on Tuesday, commenting on the results of Monday’s videoconference of the treaty’s member nations.
"During the conference yesterday, many member states confirmed their plans to resume flights under the Open Skies Treaty as soon as lockdowns are lifted," he said.
"The very fact that such plans were announced points to the treaty’s topicality. I think when these lockdowns are lifted and the pandemic ends we will probably see the resumption [of flights] in the second half [of the year]," he said.
According to the Russian diplomat, resumption of flights is discussed within the Open Skies Consultative Commission. "First of all, national restrictions are taken into account because they are applicable not only to those who are on the country’s territory but also to the crew performing the flight, which requires corresponding guarantees and permits, including from the relevant Russian services responsible for quarantine measures," Bushuyev noted.
The signatory states to the Treaty on Open Skies held a special videoconference on Monday to discuss the impacts of the United States’ withdrawal and the treaty’s future after that.
US President Donald Trump declared on May 21 that Washington was going to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which provides for inspection flights over member countries’ territories to monitor military activities. He motivated this step by Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a written statement that the decision to withdraw from the treaty will come into effect in six months after May 22. Moscow denies the accusations saying it is committed to the treaty and puts forward counterclaims.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 in Helsinki by 23 member nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements and broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations. The treaty 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.