WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pressed for immediate negotiations with Russia to finalize a verifiable agreement as the two sides seem moving closer to extend a key nuclear arms control treaty.
"Russia has agreed in principle to freeze all of its nuclear warheads... But we need to make sure that US and Russian negotiators get together just as soon as possible to continue to make progress to finalize a verifiable agreement," Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday citing Pompeo as saying.
His remarks came at a time when the two nuclear superpowers appear to reach common ground on the one-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire in February 2021. Washington and Moscow signed the New START in 2010.
The treaty, which stipulates limits to the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems, is the last remaining nuclear arms control pact in force between the two nuclear superpowers.
The New START can be extended by a maximum of five years with the consent of the two countries. Without an extension, the US and Russian nuclear arsenals would be unchecked for the first time since 1972.
US and Russian officials had held several rounds of negotiations over arms control in Vienna and Helsinki since June, without making substantive progress.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Russia confirmed its readiness to continue negotiations with the US on the extension of the New START. "This topic is of strategic nature and global significance. It is in the interests of not only our two countries but also global security and stability," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
He said Russia hopes that the dialogue with the US will continue and their differences will be overcome. (IANS)