World

US quits Open Skies treaty, blames Russia

By AAP Newswire

The United States has announced its intention to withdraw from the 35-member Open Skies treaty that permits unarmed aerial surveillance flights over participating countries, saying Russia has repeatedly violated the pact's terms.

Senior administration officials said the pullout will formally take place in six months, based on the treaty's withdrawal terms.

It was the latest move by US President Donald Trump's administration to remove the country from a major global treaty, following withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to a small group of reporters, said the decision came after a six-month review that found multiple instances of Russian refusal to comply with the treaty.

"During the course of this review it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America's interests to remain a party to the Open Skies treaty," said one of the officials, saying Russia violates and implements the treaty in ways that can contribute to military threats against the US and allies.

Each country in the treaty agrees to make all its territory available for surveillance flights, yet Russia has restricted flights over certain areas.

At the same time, the officials said US representatives had begun talks in recent days with Russian officials about a new round of nuclear arms negotiations.

"The goal is to get a robust set of teams together to begin crafting the next generation of nuclear arms control measures. The United States is committed to arms control. We are committed to European security. And we are committed to a future that puts meaningful constraints on nuclear weapons," one official said.

The Open Skies treaty, initially proposed by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, was signed in 1992 and took effect in 2002.

Australia is not among the 35 state parties to the Open Skies Treaty, which currently includes Canada, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the UK and the US.