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EU calls on US to rethink decision to exit Open Skies Treaty

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell underlined that he regrets the announcement by the United States to withdraw from the Treaty

Brussels, May 22. /TASS/. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has called on the US to revisit its unilateral decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies and Russia to return to full compliance, Borrell said in a statement issued on Friday.

The high representative underlined that he regrets "the announcement by the United States to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty."

"Withdrawing from a Treaty is not the solution to address difficulties in its implementation and compliance by another party. While continuing to urge Russia to return immediately to the full implementation of the Treaty, I call upon the United States to reconsider their decision," Borrell stressed. "The European Union will be examining the implications this decision may have for its own security."

"The Treaty on Open Skies is a key element of our arms-control architecture and serves as a vital confidence and security-building measure. Since it came into force in 2002, this agreement has enabled to carry out more than 1,500 reconnaissance missions over the territories of all the signatory states. The treaty provides transparency and predictability. It is an important contribution to European and global security and stability," the statement reads.

Borrell underlined that all signatories to the treaty "must continue to acknowledge this and ensure the full implementation of the Treaty."

Open Skies Treaty exit

US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the decision to quit the Treaty on Open Skies, that allowed participants to fly over any territories of the treaty signatories to supervise the military activity. Giving the reasoning behind this decision, the US side cited alleged numerous violations committed by Russia, while Moscow rejects these accusation and lays counterclaims. According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the US itself brazenly violates the treaty. Moreover, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova underlined that Russia itself has complaints about the US regarding the treaty which were voiced before.

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). It was drafted with Moscow’s active participation. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the treaty is a major instrument of strengthening trust and security. The Open Skies’ main goals are to build transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations. The accord 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.

For the past several years, Washington has been accusing Moscow of carrying out the accord 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 some restrictions on Russian observation flights over its territory. Moscow came up with a tit-for-tat response some time later.