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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nuclear Reductions Talks with Russia Restart on Monday

Via Political Punch:

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: Nuclear arms reduction talks between the United States and Russia are set to resume in Geneva Monday after a one month hiatus, the State Department said today.

Negotiations to replace the expired START treaty paused for the winter holiday season after months of haggling and weeks after the previous agreement expired on December 5. An interim agreement was reached to keep key provisions going, but differences between both sides persist.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters that progress had been made through informal sessions during the month-long break, including a visit to Moscow by National Security Advisor Jim Jones, but he would not speculate when a new agreement would be reached.

“I think we’ve had a productive interlude since the teams broke late last year. There’s still work to be done. Hard to make any predictions in terms of what a timeline is. But I think we’re reasonably optimistic that the finish line is within sight,” Crowley said.

On Sunday, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said that 95% of issues had been coordinated.

US officials also say much of the new deal has already been agreed upon, but key contentious issues remain. Specifically, US officials have said Russian negotiators refuse to allow US monitors at their nuclear sites as was permitted under the old treaty.

A recent announcement by Poland that a battery of US Patriot missiles and some 100 US troops would be based within 100 km from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, however, is unlikely to help build confidence between the sides.

According to US officials, both sides have already agreed to reduce their nuclear warhead stockpiles to within the goal of 1500-1675 established last July.

ABC’s Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report.

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