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NATO states could ratify CFE treaty before deadline - Russia

RIA Novosti

25/10/2007 19:56 (Adds NATO Secretary General's comments, details in paras 10-13)

NOORDWIJK, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's defense minister said Thursday that NATO member states could ratify the adapted Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE) before the Russian deadline for a moratorium expires in December.

The July 14 presidential decree set a 150-day deadline for the West to ratify the treaty. Meanwhile, Russia has pledged to honor all its commitments under the treaty until the moratorium comes into effect in mid-December.

"This [deadline] encourages NATO to make a decision as soon as possible," Anatoly Serdyukov said following an informal meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Noordwijk in the western Netherlands.

"The German defense minister, for instance, says he is in favor of signing and ratifying the adapted CFE treaty as soon as possible, meeting the main condition of the Russian side," the Russian minister said.

The CFE Treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Following its large-scale expansion over the last decade, NATO has substantially exceeded armament levels permitted by the CFE for NATO members - by 6,000 tanks, some 10,000 armored vehicles, over 5,000 artillery items and some 1,500 combat planes.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws its troops from their territories. Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE Treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after the summit in Noordwijk that he hoped Russia would not impose a moratorium or withdraw from the treaty before all possible efforts are made to break the deadlock on the issue.

"I sincerely hope it will not happen," he said.

Scheffer said that although NATO's position did not completely coincide with Russia's position, the CFE treaty was a cornerstone of European security and should remain so.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will consider the future of the 30-member treaty, which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry from the Atlantic to the Urals, on November 6.

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