Na­tions to up­hold flight ac­cord

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Lorne Cook

BRUS­SELS — Ten Euro­pean Union coun­tries on Fri­day ex­pressed re­gret at U.S. plans to with­draw from an in­ter­na­tional treaty al­low­ing ob­ser­va­tion flights over more than 30 coun­tries and vowed to up­hold the pact, as NATO en­voys met to dis­cuss de­vel­op­ments.

Pres­i­dent Trump said Thurs­day that Rus­sian vi­o­la­tions make it un­ten­able for the United States to stay in the Open Skies Treaty. Wash­ing­ton has sig­naled that it will pull out in six months, al­though Trump hinted that he might re­con­sider the de­ci­sion.

The treaty came into force in 2002. It was meant to pro­mote trust be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia by al­low­ing sig­na­to­ries to con­duct re­con­nais­sance flights over each other’s ter­ri­to­ries to col­lect in­for­ma­tion about mil­i­tary forces and ac­tiv­i­ties.

In a joint state­ment, the for­eign min­istries of Bel­gium, the Czech Repub­lic, Fin­land, France, Ger­many, Italy, Lux­em­bourg, Nether­lands, Spain and Swe­den said the pact “is a cru­cial el­e­ment of the con­fi­dence­build­ing frame­work that was cre­ated over the past decades in or­der to im­prove trans­parency and se­cu­rity across the EuroAt­lantic area.”

They called on Rus­sia to lift flight re­stric­tions, no­tably over its Kalin­ingrad re­gion, which lies be­tween NATO al­lies Lithua­nia and Poland. Of the 10 coun­tries, Fin­land and Swe­den are not NATO mem­bers.

Ear­lier, Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas ac­knowl­edged that Rus­sia was not re­spect­ing the treaty, “but from our point of view, this does not jus­tify a with­drawal.”

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