MOSCOW, November 22. /TASS/. Russia is not ruling out that under the new administration Washington could rejoin the Treaty on Open Skies, Russia’s chief negotiator at the Vienna talks on military security and arms control issues Konstantin Gavrilov said, according to the Foreign Ministry’s website.
"We have always said: if the US considers it necessary to withdraw [from the Open Skies Treaty] - this is its right. Returning or not - this is also the choice of the new US administration," Gavrilov said.
"We are not ruling out this possibility in principle - it’s all in American partners’ hands, as the saying goes," the diplomat noted.
According to the diplomat, after Washington’s withdrawal from the Treaty a number of practical tasks will be on the agenda, including the distribution of financial costs related to the activity of the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), appointing two chairs of unofficial working groups instead of US representatives and defining the US status.
"We believe that they won’t be able to claim an observer status with all its advantages," Gavrilov stated. "In short, there is a lot of work to be done. We expect that the full-scale cooperation between the member-states of the Treaty on Open Skies on the whole range of issues on the agenda of the Open Skies Consultative Commission will continue without interruption."
On May 21, US President Donald Trump declared that Washington was going to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, 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 agreement would enter into force in six months, starting from May 22, i.e. on November 22.
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). 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, 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 33 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.
For the past several years, Washington has been accusing Moscow of implementing the treaty 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 certain restrictions on Russian observation flights above its territory; Moscow came up with a tit-for-tat response some time later.