U.S., Russia begin first joint open-skies flight

10:01, March 15, 2011      

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The United States and Russia on Monday began their first ever joint observation flight under the Treaty on Open Skies.

The U.S. State Department called the flight on March 14-18 a " historic joint mission," saying that it will be conducted over the territory of Sweden on a Russian aircraft with a team of Russian, American and Swedish personnel.

It said the observation flight will complete a series of joint missions conducted among Russia, Sweden and the United States that began three years ago, when Russia and Sweden flew a joint mission over the United States in 2008, and Sweden and the United States flew together over Russia in 2009.

"None of these joint flights was envisioned when the treaty was first drafted, but improved trust gained through over 750 observation flights conducted by treaty parties since 2002 has opened new opportunities for greater cooperation among its members, " the department said.

The treaty, signed on March 24, 1992 in Helsinki, Finland, is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them. It establishes a regime for unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories.

The State Department described the treaty as one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts ever undertaken to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities. "As such, the treaty provides a key mechanism in support of U.S. Euro-Atlantic security objectives," the department added.

The treaty's all participants are member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Source: Xinhua

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