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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attends a news conference after a meeting on the Syria crisis at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, France, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

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BERLIN (Reuters) - 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 advanced release of an opinion piece to run in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Friday edition.

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 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could be a forum for talks.

On Wednesday, a group of former foreign and defence ministers said Russia and NATO must agree 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 their decision to stage military manoeuvres in eastern Europe amounted to "sabre-rattling and shrill war cries" that could worsen tensions with Russia.

His Social Democrats (SPD) generally back a more conciliatory stance towards Russia than Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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