NATO and Warsaw Pact negotiators agreed on Saturday to launch new negotiations aimed at cutting conventional weapons in Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.
Last-minute talks overcame a dispute between NATO allies Greece and Turkey on whether a tiny section of Turkey's Mediterranean coast should be included in the new arms negotiations expected to begin around March 9.Agreement on the new arms talks cleared the way for conclusion of a major East-West agreement on security, economic and human rights issues worked out by the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and due to be signed by foreign ministers in Vienna next week.
In Washington, the State Department said Secretary of State George Shultz will fly to Vienna on Sunday. He was expected to join other foreign ministers in formally adopting the agreement.
The new talks will give the two military blocs a fresh start on hammering out conventional arms cuts following the failure of the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction negotiations after 15 years of effort, diplomats said.
One NATO delegate called the new talks an essential component in building on East-West progress already made in cutting nuclear weapons.
"You cannot deal with nuclear weapons in isolation," he said.
Western states say that Warsaw Pact forces are much stronger in numbers and some equipment, and this imbalance must be dealt with if more nuclear arms are to be negotiated away.
"We want on our side of the table to get a handle on those big, heavy, ready, forward-deployed Soviet armored units," said Stephen Ledogar, Washington's chief delegate.
Ledogar said no firm schedule had yet been set. But it was possible that foreign ministers of the 23 Warsaw Pact and NATO states would attend a ceremonial opening beginning March 6, allowing talks to get under way on March 9.
The agreement is a product of hard bargaining between the two power blocs, yet it was almost jeopardized at the last moment by the dispute between Athens and Ankara.
Greece had insisted that the Turkish port of Mersin be included in the area covered by the talks, a demand strongly resisted by Ankara. Turkey used Mersin to launch its 1974 invasion of north Cyprus.
With the close of the 35-nation conference rapidly approaching, a compromise was finally reached which left the question open.