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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Tries To Keep Treaty Alive

BRUSSELS -- The United States is sounding out European allies and Russia on the formation of a peacekeeping force in Moldova in an effort to resolve a dispute with Moscow that threatens a key arms control treaty, a senior U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.

A multinational force could replace Russian troops currently based in Moldova's self-proclaimed Transdnestr republic in defiance of the Moldovan government, said Paula DeSutter, the State Department's top official overseeing the implementation of international arms agreements.

"The U.S. is considering and discussing with our NATO allies options where we can propose to Russia an alternative peacekeeping force for Transdnestr, one that is genuinely multilateral, with Russian participation," DeSutter told reporters during a visit to Brussels for talks with European Union and NATO officials.

The question of Russia's troops in Moldova has long spoiled Moscow's relations with the West. It is the main reason the United States and other NATO nations have delayed ratifying a 1999 version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Cold War-era treaty governing the deployment of non-nuclear arms in Europe.

In response, President Vladimir Putin in April announced a moratorium on observance of the treaty and threatened to withdraw altogether if the United States and other NATO members do not ratify it soon. Moscow has called for a special conference among treaty signatories in Vienna next week.

DeSutter suggested a solution to the Moldova dispute could clear the way for ratification of the treaty by NATO allies, a move that could improve relations with Moscow.

NATO and EU officials gave a cautious response to DeSutter's suggestion for an international force, saying Russia had previously resisted such ideas. They expressed hope, however, that progress could be made during a visit to Russia next week by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin.