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U.S., Russia join in 1st Open Skies flight

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WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- The first-ever joint U.S.-Russian observation flight under the Open Skies Treaty occurred Monday over Swedish territory, U.S. transportation officials said.

The mission, which ends Friday, involved a Russian aircraft with a team of Russian, Swedish and U.S. personnel, the Transportation Department said in a release.

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The exercise completes a series of joint missions conducted among the three countries that began three years ago, the Transportation Department said. In 2008, Russia and Sweden flew a joint mission over the United States, and in 2009, Sweden and the United States flew together over the Russian Federation.

The Treaty on Open Skies establishes a system for unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories, the department said. The Treaty on Open Skies -- stretching from Vancouver in the west to Vladivostok in the east -- is one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts undertaken to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities, the department said.

"We consider this joint effort an important contribution to that commitment, as well as a stronger security environment for all Open Skies Treaty parties," the department said.

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