Russia backs surveillance treaty after US pulls out

File picture shows Russian ambassador to Nato Alexander Grushko addressing a news conference after the Nato-Russia Council at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2016. — Reuters pic
File picture shows Russian ambassador to Nato Alexander Grushko addressing a news conference after the Nato-Russia Council at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2016. — Reuters pic

MOSCOW, May 22 — Russia will continue to observe an international treaty that allows spy planes access to other countries’ air space even if the US pulls out, officials said today.

The Open Skies treaty allows its 34 full members to carry out unarmed surveillance flights over other member countries at short notice.

But US President Donald Trump announced yesterday he planned to pull out of the accord, the latest in a series of US withdrawals from major international agreements.

Washington accused Russia of failing to follow the treaty’s rules by blocking flights — claims denied by Moscow.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko promised Russia would continue to honour its commitments.

“As long as the treaty is in force, we intend to fully follow all the rights and obligations that apply to us from this treaty,” he told RIA Novosti news agency.

The treaty, which was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002, is seen as an important tool to prevent conflicts by allowing nations to monitor weapon build-ups.

Grushko said Russia was “acting on the basis that all the other countries will act in the same way” and “take a conscientious approach to the obligations of parties to this treaty”.

The Russian diplomat said the US pullout would damage European security and harm the interests of US allies.

China, which is not a party to the treaty, expressed “deep regret” over the US move, calling it a “display of the United States’ entrenched Cold War mentality”.

The withdrawal “will have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing in Beijing today.

The treaty has been signed by countries across Europe, the former Soviet Union and the United States and Canada. — AFP

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