Minister to sign strategic cooperation agreement with USA

Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) will sign together with her U.S. counterpart Robert Gates in London on Friday a Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in addition to the SOFA treaty, ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said.

According to today's issue of daily Hospodarske noviny (HN), the Czech military should acquire among others two Hercules transport aircraft from the United States under the declaration.

Cirtek, however,' would not release the document, saying it is still classified.

"The declaration was submitted to the government that discussed it," he said without elaborating.

He only said the declaration will be released after signature.

HN, referring to an unnamed source close to the government and the negotiations with the United States, writes that the Czech Republic should acquire two older Herculeses, logistic assistance in Afghanistan and a guarantee of intelligence information exchange.

"They are two 20 years old aircraft that can serve another 20 years after an overhaul of the engines that the Czechs would pay. As far as I am informed, it is to be an advantageous agreement," the source told HN.

A Czech delegation of the Foreign Ministry and the military conducted negotiations on the declaration in Washington in the past few days.

Deputy defence minister Martin Bartak then told CTK that the Czech Republic and the United States will cooperate within the strategic partnership not only in foreign missions like up until now, but also in information exchange, including anti-missile defence, in sciences and in research.

The Czech ministry points out that the strategic cooperation declaration is not linked with the Czech-U.S. treaty on building a U.S. radar base on Czech soil.

The base together with ten interceptor missiles in Poland are to be elements of the U.S. defence system in Europe.

The Czech Republic and the United States signed the respective treaty in July, but it is yet to be ratified by Czech parliament where the govern''ment is not sure of necessary support, however.

The SOFA agreement that Parkanova will sign in London sets the conditions of the stay of U.S. soldiers on Czech soil.

[Source: Czech News Agency, Prague, 17Sep08]

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