MOSCOW: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday called on Russia to destroy a controversial missile system Washington says breaches a key arms control treaty.
“We believe Russia can save this treaty,” Maas said after talks with Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF).
“It affects our security interests in a fundamental way.”
Tensions have raged between Russia and the United States over the fate of the INF agreement signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
US President Donald Trump has promised to walk away from the agreement and Russian leader Vladimir Putin threatened a new arms race, saying Europe would be its main victim.
Washington says Moscow’s 9M729 missile system violates the treaty and warned it would withdraw from the agreement if Russia does not get rid of it.
Russia denies the claim, accusing the United States of violating the treaty which forbids ground-launched short- and intermediate-range missiles.
“Like other NATO members, we believe that there is a missile violating this treaty and it should be destroyed in a verifiable manner to get back to the implementation of this agreement,” Germany’s Maas told reporters.
Maas commended Moscow for trying to salvage the agreement and expressed hope that talks between Russian and US negotiators would resume in the near future.
Last month Washington gave Russia a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles that it claims breach the INF treaty or the US would begin the six-month process of formally withdrawing from the deal.
Lavrov for his part said Washington provided no evidence that Russia’s tests of the missile violated the INF treaty.
He said Washington’s demands to destroy the missiles and have regular access to Russian sites were just “a pretext to exit the treaty.”
“During official contacts on arms control and disarmament issues back in October the United States said the decision is definitive and their announcement of the withdrawal from the INF treaty is not an invitation to dialogue. This is a quote.”
Earlier this week, talks between US and Russian officials in Geneva to salvage the deal led nowhere. Moscow said Washington did not appear to be in the mood for more talks while a US official said Russia was just paying “lip service” to transparency.
Russian officials said US representatives had confirmed Washington’s intention to begin withdrawing from the treaty from February 2.—AFP