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Russian diplomat says NATO is dodging talks on Russia’s Baltic air safety initiative

NATO’s technical experts were invited to Russia for an in-depth and direct dialogue on all aspects of the use of transponders in the Baltic region

SOCHI, September 30. /TASS/.The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is trying to avoid detailed discussion of the Russian initiative on enhancing aviation safety in the Baltic region, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told TASS on Friday.

According to him, at this past July’s session of the Russia-NATO Council (RNC), Russia’s representatives handed NATO a written list of concrete steps for bolstering confidence. "Two months later we heard some comments from NATO, but only on selected aspects," the Russian diplomat stressed. "Their explanations actually meant that our initiatives had been rejected."

"The response to our initiative on enhancing military aviation safety in the Baltic region was very indicative," Meshkov noted. "We invited NATO’s technical experts along with Sweden and Finland’s representatives to Russia for an in-depth and direct dialogue on all aspects of the use of transponders (devices for the automatic identification of aircrafts) in this region," the diplomat said. "But instead of accepting the invitation they are trying to make us shoulder the "burden of proving" the necessity of transponder use for the prevention of aviation incidents."

"Wasn’t it NATO’s representatives who have been reiterating the threat posed by the Russian aircraft flying with their transponders off, calling it the most pressing problem in the security sphere?" Meshkov said.

"It looks like an attempt to avoid a detailed discussion on our initiative - no more, no less," Meshkov added.

"NATO’s further attempts to play a lopsided game won’t help us reach any agreement on enhancing confidence," the deputy foreign minister concluded.

In the beginning of July, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto said that Moscow backed Finland’s proposal on the prohibition of aircraft flying over the Baltic region with their transponders off. Later, Russia’s Ministry of Defense invited military experts from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland to Moscow to hold consultations in September on Europe’s military and political situation.

NATO-Russia Council 

The next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will be held only after Moscow receives a written answer from the alliance’s to its proposals on measures to reduce dangers in the military area, Meshkov said.

Moscow is still open for serious and equal dialogue with the alliance on pressing issues on the European and international agenda concerning the interests of Russia and NATO: 

"The NRC format, which has proved to be in demand many times, is aimed at playing a key role here."

"However, such meetings should have a real added value," Meshkov said. "And we are forced to take note of the alliance’s persisting intention to use the Council exclusively as a channel to advance the intra-group’s stances."

"I do not rule out that the substance to continue dialogue in the format of the NRC will emerge only after we receive and later analyze a written answer from the alliance to the proposals voiced during the July meeting," the diplomat stressed. "There should be no rush regarding the date."

The diplomat noted that an understanding is growing in NATO that the current situation regarding Russia, which occurred following Brussels’ course towards curtailing the systemic dialogue, is abnormal: 

"We would like to hope that this insight will have a sobering effect on those NATO member-states that still try to discredit the NRC format." 

The Russian diplomat has urged NATO to find the courage to quit extremely politicized, intra-bloc doctrines: 

The North Atlantic Alliance, he said, has dismissed a number of Russian initiatives, including proposals for a meeting of military experts in Moscow to discuss European security, for opinion exchanges between the military regarding terrorist threats, for resuming interaction within the Cooperative Airspace Initiative, and for depoliticized analysis of military programs that once existed within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council.

"I believe that such a response stems from obsession with ideologized motives," Meshkov said. "Meanwhile, time is ripe for the member-countries of the alliance to demonstrated genuine responsibility in their approach to establishing systemic cooperation with our country and to find the courage to go beyond the bounds of purely politicized intra-bloc doctrines.".