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Europe: All Signatories Ratify CFE Treaty Amendments

Munich, 16 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Negotiators at the Vienna arms talks say all 30 states which are signatories to the 1990 agreement on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) have now ratified the amendments which they accepted in negotiations in Vienna in May last year.

The deadline for ratification was midnight last night. A spokesman for the U.S. delegation at the Vienna arms talks today told RFE/RL that the amendments were ratified by all 30, including Azerbaijan, which had long been reluctant to do so. The spokesman said Azerbaijan did so "very late yesterday."

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the amendments this week.

The 1990 Treaty, signed in Paris, reduced the overall number of conventional forces in Europe, and placed limits on how many could be deployed in individual regions. The amendments, which have now been ratified, allow Russia to deploy more tanks and artillery in sensitive regions, such as the North Caucasus, than were allowed in the basic Treaty.

Diplomats tell our correspondent that the amendments do not change the limits on the number of weapons, but gives Moscow more flexibility in deciding where to put them. It also redraws the boundaries of Russia's northern and southern flanks.

Last month, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia all said they had reservations about ratifying the amendments, although they had initialled them last year. However, Georgia ratified them May 13, and Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma said this week he would sign them.

Some of the reservations applied to two controversial paragraphs in last year's agreement. One says Russia may temporarily deploy artillery, tanks, and othher armored vheicles on the territory of other states, if they freely agree to this, and with due respect for their sovereignty.

The other allows other states to pass on to Russia some of their allocation of artillery, main battle tanks and other armored vehicles provided they do so freely and with full respect for their sovereignty. Azerbaijan excluded itself from this agreement when the amendments were initialled in Vienna last year.