Slovak government approves defence treaty with United States

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PRAGUE, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Slovakia’s government has approved a defence agreement with the United States, setting the framework for potential use of its air bases by its NATO partner but not leading to any concrete deployments, ministers said on Wednesday.

The agreement, which the Slovak government said follows similar treaties by 23 other NATO countries including all those on the alliance’s eastern border, still needs the president’s signature and ratification by the country’s parliament.

“This is an important sign that the government is acting responsibly in foreign, security and defence policies,” Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok told a news conference.

Under the agreement, the United States would be able to use facilities at two Slovak airports at Sliac and Malacky, while any concrete plans would be subject to follow-up agreements. Slovakia would qualify for $100 million in U.S. funds.

Korcok told reporters that the debate about the agreement had been filled with misinformation. Any future potential presence of any troops would be subject to approval by the government and parliament, he said.

Slovakia shares its eastern border with Ukraine, at the centre of tensions between NATO and Russia for the last few years.

Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region since then in a war that has killed some 15,000 people. In recent months, Russia has amassed troops near its border with Ukraine.

Slovakia’s plans to sign the DCA agreement came under criticism from the country’s opposition, which had earlier participated in preparing the deal when it was in government. Former Prime Minister Robert Fico said his Smer party would not back it in parliament and wanted a referendum on the issue.

The country’s prosecutor general has also criticised it, citing legal grounds, but the ministers said that the agreement was in line with existing Slovak law.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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