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Russia hails CFE Treaty conference plan

MOSCOW, September 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia welcomes Germany's initiative to hold an international conference on the future of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) in October, a Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

"We approve of the idea of conducting an international conference on the CFE Treaty in October," said Boris Malakhov, deputy director of the Information and Press Department.

He said the conference will be "a continuation of the conversation held at the CFE emergency conference," which took place in Vienna June 12 through 15.

The idea of a CFE conference in Berlin was put forward a few days ago by German Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier, who expressed concern about the future of the CFE Treaty, which Russia intends to quit.

On July 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on the CFE Treaty, which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry from the Atlantic to the Urals. No NATO countries have ratified the treaty's amended version.

The moratorium is to come into force later this year if the West does not ratify the treaty.

The president's announcement came after a tense conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended CFE Treaty until Russia fully withdraws its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by the late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul in 1999.

The CFE Treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws its troops from their territories.

Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr, in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE Treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.