17 Apr 2020 20:51

Lavrov tells Pompeo Russia willing to work out new nuclear arms deal but insists on preserving New START in meantime

MOSCOW. April 17 (Interfax) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a telephone call with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Moscow stands ready to work together with Washington on new nuclear arms agreements but will insist on preserving the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until a new deal has been concluded, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"Lavrov once again reiterated Russia's proposal on extending New START, which expires in February 2021. He stressed that Russia stands ready to work on possible new agreements on nuclear weapons, but it would be important during their preparation, which would inevitably take a long time, to preserve such a cornerstone of global security as New START," the ministry said in a statement published on its website.

During the conversation, "the parties agreed to intensify Russian-U.S. dialogue on arms reduction and nonproliferation," the ministry said.

"Lavrov emphasized the need to pursue this dialogue taking into account all factors affecting strategic stability," it said.

The U.S. Department of State said following the conversation that "any future arms control talks must be based on President Trump's vision for a trilateral arms control agreement that includes both Russia and China."

"The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also discussed bilateral issues, including the detention of U.S. citizens," the Department of State said.

Pompeo and Lavrov also discussed "next steps in the bilateral Strategic Security Dialogue, taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Department of State said in March that, in the U.S.' view, China's participation in a new arms control agreement would help prevent an arms race.

U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien had said earlier this year that the U.S. was open to negotiations with Russia, and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson also reaffirmed this.

"I know that our administration is preparing to begin talks with Russia and make an effort to bring China in for the next level of arms control agreements," Hutchinson said.