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The BBC's Barnaby Mason
"The treaty has been updated to reflect post-Cold War realities"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 10:57 GMT
New arms control treaty for Europe
The treaty limits weapons on a national basis rather than by blocs

Leaders of 30 nations have signed a landmark treaty aimed at controlling conventional weapons in Europe.

The new treaty is said to roughly halve the levels of weapons allowed in Europe between the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and Russia's Ural Mountains to the east.

The document, signed by politicians at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul, also strengthens inspection measures to ensure all countries are in compliance.

However, the treaty will not be ratified until Russia ends its offensive in Chechnya, which currently puts it in breach of the levels of weaponry it is allowed.

Battle for the Caucasus
The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty is an updated version of an agreement originally concluded in 1990, at the end of the Cold War.

Among the 30 countries putting their names to the treaty were a number of ex-Soviet republics, but it was also signed by Russia and the US. Only 22 nations signed the original treaty in 1990.

The 1999 version sets limits on a national basis instead of the bloc-to-bloc totals set in the 1990 document, which saw Europe in terms of two opposing blocs - Nato and the Warsaw Pact.

The original treaty limited each group to 20,000 battle tanks, 30,000 armoured combat vehicles, 20,000 pieces of artillery, 6,800 combat aircraft and 2,000 attack helicopters.

Under the revised treaty Russia, with the most weapons, is limited to 6,350 battle tanks, while the US is allowed 1,812 such weapons.

Chechnya sticking point

The treaty particularly sets out new lower ceilings for troops and weapons in military sensitive border regions, or "flank regions", such as the Caucasus with Russia.

Moscow admits that it is in breach of the level of armoured combat vehicles it is allowed in the Caucasus, because of its military offensive in Chechnya.

But Western governments agreed that they could still adopt the treaty, on the basis that it would not be ratified until Russia reduces its forces once it has ended its offensive in Chechnya.

US President Bill Clinton called on Russia to do so as soon as possible.

"Russia has pledged that it will comply with the flank provisions of the adapted treaty by reducing its forces in the North Caucasus," he said in a statement.

"This must be done as soon as possible. I will only submit this agreement to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification when Russian forces have in fact been reduced to the flank levels set forth in the adapted treaty," he said.

Russia-Georgia agreement

Following the signing of the treaty, Russia and neighbouring republic Georgia said they had reached agreement on cutting the number of Russian forces stationed on Georgian soil.

Russia is in breach of its limits in the Caucasus
Moscow said it would close two of its four military bases in Georgia, where it has maintained forces since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

And by 2000 it would reduce its conventional forces and troops to 153 tanks, 241 armed combat vehicles and 140 "military systems".

But Moscow failed to reach agreement with another former Soviet republic, Moldova, which is demanding the complete withdrawal of some 170 Russian tanks, 130 armoured vehicles and 2,600 troops still on its soil.

The CFE treaty was the first of four documents set to be adopted at the summit.

The three others include a European Security Charter setting out the principles and role of the OSCE for the 21st century; a final declaration that will give the OSCE a role in Chechnya; and a document on confidence and security-building measures

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  Europe
Yeltsin walks out on world leaders
17 Nov 99 |  Europe
Yeltsin warns critics over Chechnya
18 Nov 99 |  Europe
Tricky task at Istanbul summit
18 Nov 99 |  Monitoring
Full text of Boris Yeltsin's speech
17 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia suspicious of OSCE motives
05 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: West worries over Chechnya

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