|BRUSSELS, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - NATO member states consider the re-drafted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) a very important document and are ready to ratify it, a NATO spokesman said in Brussels Wednesday.|
James Appathurai said NATO countries were ready to ratify the arms control pact, which Russia has been urging for some time, as soon as all its terms were met.
The original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 to reduce conventional military forces on the continent and amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.
Moscow has pointed out that NATO newcomers Slovakia and the three Baltic states have not joined the pact at all, despite a preliminary agreement that they would do so.
Moldova and Georgia said they would not ratify it until Russia withdraws its forces from their territories, notably Russian peacekeepers from the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and Transdnestr. This led other NATO countries to abstain from ratifying it as well.
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that "artificial links" between the CFE treaty and a UN-mandated peacekeeping force in Georgia or a Russian battalion guarding ammunition depots in Moldova are "unacceptable" and "legally irrelevant."
Even "those who make those claims have told us long ago that the links are political rather than legal," Lavrov said.