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Russia set to ratify NATO SOFA agreement

RIA Novosti

22/05/2007 12:34 MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - The lower chamber of the Russian parliament plans to ratify Wednesday an agreement among signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty and other states participating in the Partnership for Peace regarding the status of their forces (SOFA).

Russia signed the agreement, which regulates the presence of foreign troops on its territory and guarantees the rights of Russian military personnel participating in joint military exercises in the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, among other provisions, in 1995.

The parliamentary defense committee earlier backed ratification of the document that had been signed by 41 countries so far, stating that the document meets Russia's interests by ensuring efficient cooperation between parties to the agreement in the event of joint military exercises, rescue operations, and relief efforts.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, dismissed Monday allegations that Russia had been forced to ratify the agreement on "discriminatory conditions."

"All cooperation conditions for parties to the agreement are equal," Kosachev said, adding that ratification would provide a legal basis for effective joint efforts in dealing primarily with the consequences of natural disasters and industrial accidents.

He also said Russia planned to conduct about 200 joint exercises with other signatories to the agreement in 2008, and none of them were related to military cooperation.

Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Azerbaijan are the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States that have signed the NATO SOFA agreement.

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