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    Russia, U.S. to hold talks on new START treaty by end of 2008

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    Russia and the United States are planning to hold the next round of talks on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the end of the year, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Friday.

    PARIS, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and the United States are planning to hold the next round of talks on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the end of the year, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Friday.

    The current treaty expires in December 2009.

    "As to the continuation of the dialogue on strategic arms reduction after the expiration of the current START-1 treaty, we will hold the next round of talks by the end of December, although this will probably take place in Moscow rather than in Geneva," Sergei Ryabkov told a news conference in Paris.

    The Russian diplomat also denied Western media reports that Russia and the U.S. were holding talks in Geneva on a document that would replace the START-1 treaty.

    "The current event in Geneva is a regular meeting of the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC), a body that allows the sides to monitor the implementation of the treaty," Ryabkov said.

    The existing START-1 treaty was signed by Moscow and Washington on July 31, 1991, five months before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have since disposed of all their nuclear weapons or transferred them to Russia, and the U.S. and Russia have reduced the number of delivery vehicles to 1,600 each, with no more than 6,000 warheads.

    Moscow has repeatedly stated that the signing of a new nuclear disarmament deal would only be possible if Washington abandoned its plans to place elements of a U.S. missile shield in central Europe.

    Russia also insists that any agreement replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty should be a legally binding document and must set lower ceilings not only for the number of nuclear warheads, but also for their delivery vehicles.

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