US--Russia disarmament talks 'productive'
Diplomatic talks in Geneva over nuclear disarmament have been productive and will continue later this month.
Geneva -- Russia and the United States had 'productive’ talks on cutting their nuclear arsenals, the senior US negotiator said on Thursday as the two sides arranged to meet again this month.
Russian and US disarmament negotiators agreed at talks in Geneva this week "to hold the next round of talks in the second half of June," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller told the international Conference on Disarmament that the two nuclear powers were seeking to reduce weapons numbers below levels set in the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
"President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have instructed that the new agreement achieve reductions lower than those in existing arms control agreements, and that the agreement should include effective verification measures drawn up from our experience in implementing START," she said.
"We have been here in Geneva for the past three days with the US delegation, engaged in productive talks with our Russian counterparts, working towards a START follow-on agreement," Gottemoeller added.
Russian and US negotiators on Wednesday ended their second round of talks on replacing the treaty, which expires on 5 December, amid a thaw in relations between the two powers.
The confidential negotiations are meant to feed into a summit between President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on 6-8 July.
On Wednesday, a senior Russian diplomat acknowledged in Moscow that Russia-US ties had improved "radically" under Obama, after relations plunged to a post-Cold War low during the George W. Bush presidency.
The 1991 START, signed just before the break-up of the Soviet Union, bound both sides to deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
The United States and Russia also have the more recent Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed in 2002, which technically went further than START by limiting the total deployment of warheads.
However, disarmament experts regard it as a weaker agreement, because it focuses on deployment and does not physically reduce weapons stockpiles, and is not verifiable as START is.
Gottemoeller, who led the US delegation, made it clear that the replacement deal would be one of several building blocks in broader global moves towards nuclear disarmament and curbs on proliferation.
She highlighted the breakthrough at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament last Friday, which agreed to restart global arms control talks after more than a decade of deadlock.
It includes full negotiations for an international ban on production of new nuclear bomb-making material, a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).
"If we succeed on FMCT, we'll have taken a necessary but admittedly not sufficient step towards nuclear disarmament," Gottemoeller said.
"It must be complemented by deeper respect on non-proliferation rules, consequences for those who violate them, improved verification on compliance and further progress on arms control."
The conference will also hold talks on curbing the arms race in outer space, called for by Russia and China, as well as full nuclear disarmament, a key demand of developing nations.
The conference includes the historic nuclear weapons powers, as well as India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran whose controversial nuclear energy programme is under the international spotlight.
Obama last week called FMCT "an essential part of my vision."
However, Pakistan warned the Conference on Thursday that it wanted to see progress "in tandem on all core issues," including 'negative security assurances' sought by non-nuclear weapon states to guarantee that they would not be targeted by a nuclear attack.
"This will serve as a first building block," said ambassador Zamir Akram, who also highlighted Pakistan's overriding concern about the regional nuclear balance in South Asia with arch-rival India.
AFP / Expatica