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EU urges US to reconsider military overflight treaty pullout

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday urged the United States to reconsider its plan to withdraw from a military treaty allowing observation flights over more than 30 countries, as NATO insisted that Russia has long flouted its commitments under the agreement.

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 United States and Russia by allowing its 34 signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over one another’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities.

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“Withdrawing from a treaty is not the solution to address difficulties in its implementation and compliance by another party,” said Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief. “While continuing to urge Russia to return immediately to the full implementation of the treaty, I call upon the United States to reconsider their decision.”

Noting that the agreement has led to more than 1,500 reconnaissance missions and “is an important contribution to European and global security and stability,” Borrell said the EU “will be examining the implications this decision may have for its own security.”

Earlier, 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 confidence-building framework that was created over the past decades in order to improve transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS