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US willing to solve issues related to Open Skies Treaty with Russia — State Department

State Department said that "the United States honors and will continue to honor Open Skies Treaty obligations"

WASHINGTON, December 29. /TASS/. Washington is ready to assume efforts to solve the issues related to implementation of the Open Skies Treaty with Moscow, a State Department official told TASS on Thursday in comments on Russia’s decision to limit the scope of US military observation flights over Russia on the basis of reciprocity starting January.

"The United States honors and will continue to honor our Open Skies Treaty obligations and remains willing to resolve issues related to its implementation," he said.

"We encourage Russia to engage with us constructively about our concerns. The U.S. response measures are reversible should Russia come back into compliance with its Open Skies Treaty obligations," the official said.

The US restrictions come into effect starting January 1. The US stated the intention to apply them at the end of September.

Meanwhile, the representative of the US State Department refused give comments on Russia’s restrictions, which will be also imposed starting January 1. "Regarding Russian comments saying they may limit our Open Skies flights starting January, we would refer you to the Russian government to explain those comments. We will not speculate about any potential Russian actions. We will carefully review any Russian measures once they are announced and clarified," he said.

According to the diplomat, the United States formally declared Russia to be in violation of its Open Skies Treaty obligations in June 2017. "After repeated, unsuccessful attempts to engage Moscow both bilaterally and multilaterally, the United States decided to implement certain reasonable Treaty-compliant measures in response to Russia’s non-compliance. As of January 1, 2018, the United States will no longer permit certain goodwill implementation flexibilities that we had extended to Russia in the past," he noted.

According to Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Washington "has assumed unilateral steps to create biggest inconveniences for Russia’s ‘Open Skies’ missions over American territory." "In this respect, in line with reciprocity principle, Russia was forced to take appropriate steps, which are of procedure nature," she said on Thursday.

The Treaty on Open Skies concluded in Helsinki on March 24, 1992 came into force in 2002. It currently has 34 member states. The treaty empowers 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 Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), established under the treaty’s terms, makes consensus decisions obligatory for all partakers.

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 within the scope of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and other relevant international organizations. Subsequently, it is contemplated to apply the open skies regime to new fields, such as environmental protection.