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Russia to seek guarantees of flights over US facilities in Open Skies Treaty member states

Moscow will also request that the treaty signatories undertake not to transfer the data of flights over Russia to the United States, according to the top diplomat

MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. Russia will require the member states of the Open Skies Treaty to allow flights over US facilities on their territory and undertake not to transfer the data of flights over Russia to the United States, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with domestic and foreign media on Thursday.

"If they want to keep the treaty in force and if we want to stay in it, we will require our partners to confirm to us in writing and legally that, first of all, they will not prohibit flights over any part of their territory. Whether or not there are US bases there, this is their territory, the territory of Western countries staying in the treaty," Russia’s top diplomat pointed out.

"Secondly, they should undertake not to transfer the data on the flights over the Russian Federation to the United States," Lavrov added.

The Treaty on Open Skies rules out the possibility of transferring the data obtained during inspection flights to the countries that are not parties to it, the Russian foreign minister pointed out.

However, the United States "is actively pressurizing" its NATO allies to sign documents obliging them to transfer the data of observation flights over Russia to Washington when these countries stay in the treaty without the US, Lavrov said.

"This is quite dishonest. That is, we [the US] do not want to show anything to anyone at all but will illegally make our allies share information, which they have no right to hand over to Americans under the terms of the treaty," Russia’s top diplomat stressed, pointing to the US policy.

Washington requires its European allies and other Western countries to deny Russia’s requests for performing flights over US military facilities on their territory, Lavrov said.

"This is a gross violation of the treaty. The Americans are forcing their partners to foist such requirements on us. We, naturally, cannot reconcile ourselves to that," Russia’s foreign minister stressed.

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.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained in a written statement that the decision on Washington’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty would enter into force in six months, starting from May 22, i.e. on November 22.

The US side motivated its move by Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. Moscow denies these accusations, stating that it keeps its commitment to the treaty and laying counterclaims.