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Article: Czech parliament ratifies defense treaty with US

A Czech special operations forces (SOF) member fires a rifle during a joint exercise with U.S. troops

Czech parliament ratifies defense treaty with US

PHOTO CAPTION: A Czech special operations forces (SOF) member fires a rifle during a joint exercise with U.S. troops at Eglin Range, Florida, May 5, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carly Kavish via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)



PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech parliament on Wednesday ratified a defence treaty that provides a framework for a U.S. military presence on Czech soil, strengthening ties between the two NATO members.

Any concrete decision to allow in U.S. troops would however require further parliamentary approval.

"The agreement is entirely in our national interest and I would like to underline that it is proof that our relations with the United States are now at a very high level," Defence Minister Jana Cernochova told the lower house ahead of the vote.

"It is particularly important in view of the current security situation, when unfortunately, just a few hundred kilometres from our borders to the east, brutal Russian military aggression is taking place and when Europe is threatened with the biggest military conflict since World War Two."

The upper house of parliament has already backed the Defence Cooperation Agreement, which the lower house backed on Wednesday, leaving the signature of President Petr Pavel, a retired NATO general, as the last official act left in the process.

It is unclear when he will sign the accord, which on Wednesday was backed by the main opposition party ANO, alongside the five-party centre-right ruling coalition. The opposition far-right Direct Democracy Party was the only party that voted against.

The framework for a potential U.S. military presence lists military installations U.S. troops could use, and deals with issues such as jurisdiction over foreign troops, environmental impacts and rules for operating vehicles.

The Czech Republic, which is the 25th NATO member country to conclude such an agreement, has bought U.S. attack and multi-role helicopters from the United States and is also considering buying 24 F-35 fighter planes.

Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has strengthened support in many countries for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Finland in April ended decades of military non-alignment to become the group's 31st member and Sweden has also applied for membership.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; editing by Barbara Lewis)




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