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18 Mar, 2008 08:20

Compromise possible over missile shield: Medvedev

Russia's incoming president, Dmitry Medvedev, says Moscow and Washington can bring their positions on missile defence closer together. Medvedev made the statement while meeting U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary, Robert Gates

Robert Gates added that a U.S.-Russia deal on missile defence could be struck before the next American president enters office.

The two officials are in Moscow in an attempt to bring both countries closer together after the frostiness of recent years.

Medvedev stressed the importance of continuity and predicted tense talks between Russian and U.S. officials on Tuesday.

“There are issues, such as missile defence and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty where we have different positions, but we have the will to move forward and we must create a basis for continuity in Russia-U.S. relations,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

The U.S. Defense Secretary said that many issues need to be covered.

“There are many in which we are already working together and we can strengthen those. And there are those where we have disagreements we can see that we can make progress. With a broken arm I will not be difficult to negotiate with,” Robert Gates said.

Condoleezza Rice said she already has good relations with the president-elect and Robert Gates hinted Moscow can expect flexibility from Washington during the talks.

The two U.S. officials also met outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

Putin was optimistic about the dialogue with the United States.

“Six months have passed since our first meeting. After this period it’s safe to say that we can thaw the ice and reach agreements on some issues,” Vladimir Putin said.

Putin also said he had received a “serious document” from George W. Bush which could lead to new talks.

On Tuesday Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates are scheduled to hold talks with their Russian counterparts.

Ahead of the meeting, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that not only sticking points in the countries' relations will be discussed, but also what he says are the many things the two countries do see eye to eye on.

“Our position is well-known. We don't want to hide anything and want to use this contact once again to demonstrate the dangersthat arise when there is no agreement, and which measures must be taken to reach this agreement. We will, of course, discuss the achievements of our bilateral relations, which are more numerous than problems. There's the fight against terrorism, our joint initiative on the fight against nuclear terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Also there's cooperation in the peaceful nuclear energy sphere, in economics, trade and investments. So we have something positive to talk about,” Sergey Lavrov said.

The current talks are especially important, as both countries have had a strained relationship in recent years. Some observers call it one of the lowest points in relations between the states.

Vladimir Sizov, Head of the Department of Military-Political Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences says these talks highlight major changes in the course of international relations over the last two decades.

“These negotiations give the opportunity to look at the global picture in a different light. I mean that Russia and the U.S, and earlier the Soviet Union, were the engines of progress in international affairs – something they no longer are. Ten or fifteen years ago the U.S. decided it was going to be the only engine and, under the umbrella of the spread of liberal democracy, it would guide the world to a position of security. This did not happen, and now both the United States and Russia understand that something needs to be done,” said Sizov.