Italy, nine other countries vow to uphold Open Skies treaty

Italy, nine other countries vow to uphold Open Skies treaty

Italy and nine other European countries including France, Germany, Belgium and Spain on Friday vowed to stand by a major accord that allows unarmed aerial surveillance flights over participating countries after the US said it would exit the treaty.

"We regret the announcement by the US Government of its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, although we share their concerns about implementation of the Treaty clauses by Russia," said the statement, issued after the Trump administration said it would

The nearly 20-year-old pact "is a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that was created over the past decades in order to improve transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area," the joint statement went on.

The ten European states will continue to abide by the treaty "which has a clear added value for our conventional arms control architecture and cooperative security," said the statement.

"We reaffirm that this treaty remains functioning and useful," statement added.

The statement urged Russia to lift flight restrictions, notably over its Kaliningrad region lying between Nato allies Lithuania and Poland but said the countries would "continue to engage Russia as was previously decided among NATO Allies and other European partners".

Russia has also vowed to maintain the treaty, which the US will formally withdraw from in six months.