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German Minister Urges New Arms Control Pact With Russia

FILE - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at a news conference in Athens, Oct. 29, 2015. He says a new arms control pact with Russia would offer a "proven means for transparency, risk avoidance and trust building."

Germany's foreign minister has called for a new arms control deal with Moscow to avoid an escalation of tensions in Europe, where intensified military exercises by Russia and NATO have raised concerns that a war could inadvertently be triggered.

In an apparent reference to Russia's annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Russia had violated basic, non-negotiable principles of peace, breaking delicate bonds of trust built up over decades.

"At the same time, we must all be united in the desire to avoid a further twist in the escalating spiral," he said in an advance release of an opinion piece to run in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday.

He said a new arms control process would offer a "proven means for transparency, risk avoidance and trust building."

"In addition, we want a structured dialogue, with all partners who carry responsibility for the security of our continent," he wrote, noting that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could be a forum for talks.

On Wednesday, a group of former foreign and defense ministers said Russia and NATO must agree on common rules to handle unexpected military encounters to reduce the risk of inadvertently triggering a war between Moscow and the West.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, drew the criticism from NATO officials in June after warning that their decision to stage military maneuvers in Eastern Europe amounted to "saber-rattling and shrill war cries" that could worsen tensions with Russia.

His Social Democrats generally back a more conciliatory stance toward Russia than Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.