Following upbeat talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russia's foreign minister said "the right moment" had come to restart global disarmament talks after a decade-long impasse.
Russia has said it wants to renew its nuclear arms reduction treaty with the US
Speaking at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Saturday, March 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the new US administration's multilateral approach offered a chance for making "real progress" in global disarmament efforts.
"The arrival of the new US administration and President Obama changes the situation because now the question of multilateral disarmament has become a priority, which was not seen under the previous administration," Lavrov told reporters in Geneva.
He also read a statement from Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who said Moscow was "open to dialogue and is prepared for negotiations with the new US administration."
New treaty in the works
Mikhail Gobachev and George Bush, Senior, signed the START I treaty in 1991
Lavrov's comments followed talks on Friday with his newly appointed US counterpart Hillary Clinton, which he called "very promising." Both pledged cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
The current nuclear arms reduction treaty, START, expires on Dec. 5 and the leaders said they planned to hammer out a successor treaty soon.
"We both believe we need a new one," the minister said.
The original START treaty, signed in 1991, called for both parties to reduce missiles to a maximum of 1,600 and warheads to no more than 6,000. A follow-up agreement should include limitations on ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, said Lavrov.
In his Geneva address on Saturday, the Russian foreign minister stressed the need to prevent the "weaponization" of outer space and stop the operational deployment of strategic conventional warheads.
He also said he wanted the US to sign a global treaty banning underground nuclear tests.
Russia rejects US missile defense
Though both Clinton and Lavrov committed at Friday's talks to "reset" their countries' relations, it was clear that some significant differences still remained.
Lavrov and Clinton called for a 'restart'
One point of contention was the US plan to place missile defense systems in Europe, with the US says is necessary to guard against a nuclear peril from the Middle East, but which Russia sees as a threat.
Lavrorv said that the planned system "would create risks for the Russian Federation. We would have to take measures to alleviate risk."
However, Lavrov reiterated Russia's position for nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East.
US President Obama and Medvedev were scheduled to hold their first meeting on the sidelines of an economic summit in London at the beginning of April, where the issues of disarmament, nuclear proliferation and the global financial crisis would likely be discussed.