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Russian Foreign Ministry: Turkey’s violations of Open Skies Treaty alarming

February 19, 20:58 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The Russian side reserves the right to react in a relevant way to Turkey’s failure to observe provisions of the Open Skies Treaty, the statement says
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© Boris Kavashkin/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Turkey’s denial of an observation flight for Russia within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty causes alarm regarding the viability of the document, the Russian delegation said in a statement circulated at an extraordinary meeting in Vienna of the Open Skies Consultative Commission.

"We note that this unprecedented step by Turkey contradicts one of the key goals of the treaty - to contribute to greater openness and transparency through confidence measures, whose importance, by the way, NATO so much likes to discuss," the delegation said.

"Besides, the Turkish side violated the key principle of the treaty, which makes it possible to conduct observation of any point on the entire territory of the inspected side, including areas mentioned by the inspected side in official sources as hazardous airspace," it said.

Under the agreement, Ankara "had no right to deny us the holding of a surveillance mission above its territory, so its denial testifies to the desire of the Turkish side to hide some activity probably taking place in areas that the Russian plane was to have flown over," the statement said.

"The closure of the airspace occurred on a request from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which suggests that the step has a political motivation," it said. "We also draw the member states’ attention to the fact that this is far from the first case when official Ankara violates international commitments."

"We believe that Turkey’s actions should cause not the concern of the Open Skies community, but alarm for integrity and viability of the treaty as an effective means to strengthen trust and security," the statement, whose text is posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, said.

The Russian side "reserves the right to react in a relevant way to Turkey’s failure to observe provisions of the Open Skies Treaty." Moscow "hopes for reaction of other treaty member states as well, including objective assessment of Ankara’s actions," it said.

"Its absence would only mean one thing - the presence of ‘double standards’ in approaches to treaty implementation issues," the Russian delegation underscored.

Under the Open Skies Treaty, Russian specialists were to have conducted on February 1-5 an observation flight above Turkish territory on board an An-30B aircraft.

"The Turkish side agreed to receive the Russian observation mission within the mentioned timeframes. But upon the mission’s arrival at the entry point on Turkish territory, the Russian side-submitted plan of observation, which in particular suggested flyover of sections of territory adjacent to the border with Syria, was rejected," the Russian Foreign Ministry said following the incident.

"No bans or restrictions for the use of airspace were published in official sources," it said.

Open Skies Treaty

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states. It entered into force in 2002. Surveillance flights are conducted over Russia, the United States, Canada and European countries.

The key tasks of the treaty are to develop transparency, monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements, and expand capabilities to prevent crises in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations.

Turkey’s earlier claims

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on January 30 claimed that a Russian Su-34 fighter jet violated its airspace on January 29. "Yesterday the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Su-34 violated Turkish airspace. Before the violation, Turkish radar stations repeatedly warned the Russian aircraft in Russian and in English," the statement said.

It said that on January 29 in the evening "the ambassador of the Russian Federation was summoned to the ministry" and a protest was lodged to him in connection with what happened. The Turkish ministry did not state where the alleged airspace violation occurred exactly.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on January 30 denied claims by Turkey that a Russian Su-34 fighter jet allegedly violated Turkish airspace on Friday.

"There have been no violations of Turkey’s airspace by aircraft of the Russian air group in the Syrian Arab Republic," the ministry said.

"Statements by the Turkish side of an alleged case of violation by the Russian Su-34 aircraft of airspace are unsubstantiated propaganda," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

The Russian side "reserves the right to react in a relevant way to Turkey’s failure to observe provisions of the Open Skies Treaty." Moscow "hopes for reaction of other treaty member states as well, including objective assessment of Ankara’s actions," it said.

"Its absence would only mean one thing — the presence of ‘double standards’ in approaches to treaty implementation issues," the Russian delegation underscored.

Under the Open Skies Treaty, Russian specialists were to have conducted on February 1-5 an observation flight above Turkish territory on board an An-30B aircraft.

"The Turkish side agreed to receive the Russian observation mission within the mentioned timeframes. But upon the mission’s arrival at the entry point on Turkish territory, the Russian side-submitted plan of observation, which in particular suggested flyover of sections of territory adjacent to the border with Syria, was rejected," the statement said.

"No bans or restrictions for the use of airspace were published in official sources," it said.

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