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OSCE Summit: Negotiations On Revised Arms Treaty To Begin Next Year

Lisbon, 2 December 1996 (RFE/RL) --- The European security summit has agreed to begin negotiations early next year on updating the 1990 treaty limiting the size of conventional forces in Europe.

Diplomats told correspondents the agreement responds to claims by Russia and some other countries that the 1990 treaty has been overtaken by the changed political circumstances in Europe. The 1990 treaty was drawn up when NATO and the Warsaw Pact were in a state of confrontation. Russia has long argued that the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact had created new circumstances.

The 1990 Treaty imposed limits on the maximum number of tanks, artillery, armored cars, combat helicopters and war planes which could be located in Europe. The treaty divided Europe into zones and set specific limits for the number of forces which could be contained in these zones.

Russia has frequently complained that these zones are now unrealistic. It says it no longer needs large forces confronting NATO. Instead it needs more forces in the Caucasus and other flank zones when the treaty was drawn up.

In May this year Russia persuaded the other signatories to allow it to end more tanks and artillery to the Caucasus than it was permitted to do so under the treaty. However, these exceptions expire in May 1999. Diplomats said Russia hopes the new negotiations will allow it keep extra forces in the Caucasus for a longer period.

Diplomats said the agreement to review the treaty does not establish targets which must be met by a specific date. It suggests possible goals which could reinforce security in Europe.

The text says the process "should preserve and strengthen overall stability in Europe." It insisted that whatever new agreements are reached, there should be no accumulation of forces anywhere in Europe which might lead to destabilisation.

It says the goal is to "improve the operation of the 1990 treaty in a changing environment, and through that the security of each state irrespective of whether it belongs to a politico-military alliance."

The text of the agreement says the provisions of the existing 1990 Treaty will continue in force while the negotiations are underway. No country will be permitted to increase the number of tanks, artillery, armored cars, combat helicopters and warplanes it was allowed under the 1990 treaty.

The text of today's agreement says next year's negotiations "will avoid a wholesale renegotiation of the treaty. It will adopt specific adaptations for specific purposes." The existing treaty and related measures, such as inspection and verification, will remain fully in force and must be implemented in good faith until any new measures have come into operation.

A U.S. assistant secretary of State, John Kornblum, said today it was possible that the new negotiations would establish maximum limits of forces for individual countries rather than for zones.

Other diplomats said such a development would allow Russia more flexibility in moving its forces around the country. At the moment it is limited to the number of forces it can post to the zone covering Chechnya and other Caucasus trouble spots. Other diplomats said there could be a combination of national and zonal limits to prevent the build-up of very large forces in specific areas.

The negotiators will also consider the possibility of broadening the Treaty to allow other countries to join. At present there are 30 signatories. Russia has previously suggested that Sweden and Finland and the Baltic states be invited to join.

No deadline was set for reaching any conclusions but today's agreement says the negotiators should aim to complete the talks as expeditiously as those which led to the 1990 treaty. That took around three years to negotiate.

Today's agreement says the negotiators may present a report on the results achieved at the OSCE foreign ministers meeting in Copenhagen in December next year.