Russia, U.S. can agree on missile defense and CFE - Lavrov
SYDNEY, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - An agreement can be reached between Russia and the United States on an ongoing missile defense dispute and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Russia's foreign minister said Thursday.
"I think that with political will and a professional, trustful approach from both sides, there are grounds for reaching agreement on issues of strategic stability," Sergei Lavrov said after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the ongoing Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney.
On July 14 Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on Russia's compliance with the CFE Treaty, a post-Soviet accord which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry in Europe. The president's announcement came after a tense conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended CFE until Russia fully withdrew its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by the late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul in 1999.
Earlier this year Congress adopted a resolution making the creation of an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system official government policy, and allocated some $8.6 billion in the 2008 budget for its development.
The proposed system, which the U.S. claims is designed to counter threats from so-called "rogue states," has been received coolly by Russia, especially as it involves the deployment of radar and missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Soviet-bloc allies.
High-ranking diplomats from Russia and the United States will meet in Paris on Monday to discuss U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. and Russian presidents, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, are also expected to discuss the issue at the Asia-Pacific leaders' summit in Sydney on September 8-9.
At his meeting with the U.S. state secretary, the Russian foreign minister said that a new treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) was under consideration. The sides agreed to hold further discussions on the issue. Lavrov said the U.S. state and defense secretaries would visit Moscow in October for talks.
The START-1 was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on July 31, 1991, five months before the union collapsed, and remains in force between the U.S., Russia, and three other ex-Soviet states.
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