Progress in EU-US Air Negotiations

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US and EU negotiators aim to strike a wide aviation pact and their talks this week have made progress, a US official said yesterday, adding that differences remain on issues such as EU airlines flying US routes.

John Byerly, deputy assistant US transport secretary, said the two sides intended to draw up a consolidated text of an agreement on a new transatlantic 'open skies' pact, 'putting in brackets' the areas of disagreement for another round of talks in February. 'We think the talks were quite productive and yielded progress to a comprehensive agreement,' Mr Byerly said.

The European Commission is leading the talks for the 15-nation EU after the bloc's top court ruled that some provisions in present US airline pacts with European nations broke the law.

The Commission has insisted on as wide an agreement as possible including ownership questions, the servicing of US domestic routes by EU carriers and the issue of Fly America rules, in which US officials must use a US carrier.

Mr Byerly said the focus of the talks was indeed a comprehensive deal, although the track of simply amending current deals to meet EU law was going on in the background. …