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US calls for reviving conventional forces in Europe treaty

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for reviving a Cold War-era treaty setting limits on troops and weapons which Russia froze nearly three years ago.

Clinton delivered the message to foreign ministers from the 28-member NATO as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who gathered in a New York hotel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“We should agree to restore the viability of the conventional arms control regime in Europe this year, and move on to modernize the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) regime next year,” she said, according to her prepared remarks.

The 1990 CFE places precise limits on the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to the Ural mountains — a mammoth agreement that helped resolve the Cold War standoff.

Moscow’s decision to suspend compliance in December 2007 drew fire from Western governments.

In December 2007, Lavrov asked Western countries to accept amendments to the treaty that were agreed in 1999 and ratified by Moscow if Russia is to lift the suspension.

But NATO countries refused to ratify the amended treaty, which took into account the huge geopolitical changes wrought by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, until Russian troops withdraw from ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova.

They said their presence violates the CFE, a charge Moscow rejects.

Clinton said Washington is “heartened that Russia and our other CFE partners have welcomed NATO’s proposal to try to prepare a short framework statement of essential CFE elements for further discussion, before the NATO and OSCE summits.”

But she said the participants “must ensure that the initial framework commits us to addressing all the tough issues if we want the follow-on negotiations to be successful.”

In this vein, she said the United States and others meeting Wednesday believe that the CFE framework document must address the following.

“We need reciprocal military transparency. We must have real military limitations and restraints where we need them,” Clinton said.

“And all participating states, including Georgia and Moldova, must have the right to agree to the stationing of foreign forces on their sovereign territory,” she said.