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Russian diplomat warns there will be response if US violates Open Skies Treaty

Attempts to come to terms with Washington on the matter have been unsuccessful so far, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has pointed out

MOSCOW, September 28. /TASS/. Russia will evaluate the United States’ intention to hinder monitoring flights from the standpoint of compliance with the Treaty on Open Skies, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"As for the measures being taken by the United States, which, media say, are geared to hindering Russian monitoring flights over the country, we will scrutinize them from the standpoint of compliance with the Treaty on Open Skies. We will evaluate them and make a decision on proportionate steps," she stated.

Zakharova believes that the real aim behind the charges addressed to Moscow is to "distract attention from grave violations of the treaty by the United States and its allies."

"There are many cases like that," she stated.

Hindrances to airport’s operation

Zakharova replied in detail to US accusations against Russia concerning the treaty.

"Russia has allegedly imposed illegal restrictions on the range of monitoring flights," she said. "Also, NATO countries reproach us of an intention to conceal some facilities near Kaliningrad from the cameras of Open Skies planes."

"In reality everything is far more simple," Zakharova said.

"Some of our partners, while enjoying the right to make flights up to 5,500 kilometers long have spent most of the quota over the Kaliningrad Region, crossing it many times in various directions to pose problems for using the region’s tight airspace and to the operation of the international airport.

Attempts to come to terms with Washington on reasonable restraint were unsuccessful.

"Therefore we were forced to minimize the costs by setting a 500-kilometer restriction on the range of flights over the Kaliningrad Region," Zakharova said, adding that such a measure by no means violated the treaty.

"Incidentally, Washington at a certain point established a separate range of flights for the enclave Alaska," she said.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Moscow is also accused of unlawfully denying permission to make monitoring flights along the borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"This issue stems from political controversies," Zakharova said. She quoted the treaty’s text saying the "route of the monitoring plane’s flight must lie no closer than ten kilometers to the border of an adjoining state which is not a party to that treaty.

"For us, just as for some other countries, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not regions of Georgia, but independent states to which this clause is applicable to the full extent," Zakharova said. "If some of our partners are unable to reconcile themselves with the modern political realties in the Caucasus, it is not a problem of ours, let alone a violation of the treaty."

Force majeure

Zakharova said Moscow is accused of "unlawfully resorting to force majeure excuses to make amendments to an agreed schedule of observation flights in connection with travels by top officials."

"This is the most absurd charge made throughout the history of the treaty’s implementation since 2002. There has been only one such incident so far," Zakharova said.

Controversy over the treaty

The Treaty on Open Skies, concluded in Helsinki on March 24, 1992 empowers the participating countries to dispatch monitoring planes to fly over any territories of each other for keeping an eye on military activities in accordance with the agreed observation mission quotas. The consultative commission for open skies, established under the treaty’s terms, makes consensus decisions obligatory for all partakers.

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday declared the intention of the US authorities to introduce restrictions on Russian planes’ flights over the territory of the United States. The measure, according to the daily, would follow restrictions Russia imposed on flights over the Kaliningrad Region.

The paper said the restrictions might be introduced on monitoring flights over Alaska and Hawaii.