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18 Mar, 2010 16:18

START pulling into the home stretch – Lavrov

US-Russian negotiations on a new START treaty in Geneva are approaching the finishing line, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow.

“We have discussed the course of the Geneva talks to prepare the new START treaty,” Lavrov said, “We are happy with how our negotiators are carrying out the commission of our two presidents. The two presidents are personally overseeing the progress of work.”

“There is reason to believe that we are now pulling into the home stretch and we will propose to the two presidents the time and date of signing the new START treaty," he added.

We are making substantial progress on the new Start treaty,” Hillary Clinton said. “That’s the word from our negotiators in Geneva. The results from the latest negotiation rounds lead us to believe we will be reaching a final agreement soon.”

Aleksandr Pikaev from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations said no breakthrough on a new START treaty was achieved during these particular talks, but he noted that the nearly year-long negotiations should be nonetheless be considered a success.

“In less than a year a treaty is almost ready,” he said. “Remember that negotiations on the previous treaty, START 1, took place for almost 9 years.”

Political analyst Yury Rogulev told RT that all the technical details of the new START treaty are cleared through, but there are some issues that require negotiations and are holding up the signing.

“There are certain details which emerged already during the talks between the two sides – one of them is the new plans about the anti-missile defense,” he said. “Certainly it’s a matter of trust or lack of trust between the two sides which I think is slowing down a possible positive result.”

Kate Hudson from the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament suggested Barack Obama is really keen to clinch the deal when he hosts a disarmament conference in April.

“President Obama has his nuclear security conference next month, in April, and I think he would like to have this as a concrete achievement to show to the conference because he also won Nobel Peace Prize,” Hudson told RT. “He really does need to get this START successor treaty signed. I think it’s a very good step. Of course, it’s only a bilateral treaty, it’s just a bilateral reduction, but that is a big deal.”

Iranian nuclear issue

During the talks the two leaders have also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue.

Sergey Lavrov noted during his speech “we have the same strategic goal with our American partners to prevent the violation of the non-proliferation regime,” adding “We need to ensure that Iran cooperates with IAEA.”

“I’m confident that we still have an opportunity to continue political and diplomatic cooperation in this area,” he said.

Hillary Clinton stated that the Iranian nuclear problem remains an issue of grave concern for the international community, adding that, “We are still committed – as we have been – to a diplomatic solution.”

She also stressed that Iran is not meeting its international obligations and “therefore we are working together with our other partners in the format of ‘5+1’ to bring together a very clear international consensus that gives Iran the message it needs: that its behavior does have consequences.”

Meanwhile, Lavrov confirmed that construction of the nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr power plant will be completed.

“This nuclear plant will be switched on, it will be working and giving electric energy,” he said.

“This is an objective which is under full guarantees of the IAEA and which plays a special role in keeping the IAEA in Iran and in making Iran fulfill its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.”

Tackling Afghan drug flow

Another issue discussed by Clinton and Lavrov was the issue of Afghanistan and the flow of drugs from the country.

Moscow has been accusing the U.S. of not doing enough to tackle the problem, leading to a dramatic increase in the amount of narcotics brought into Russia.

Clinton said that the United States is committed to working with other countries and international organizations to stop the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan.

“We have some new mechanisms that we are developing and new ways of cooperating between our two countries that we hope will even add to our efforts,” she said. “We have increased our cooperation and launched a joint exercise to share financial intelligence related to the flow of narcotics into Russia – an issue that is very important for the Russian people and that we have pledged to work with the Russian government to address.”

Lavrov also pointed out that the two sides discussed opportunities for enhancing cooperation in the UN Security Council on this important subject.

“As a member of the SCTO, we regularly carry out operations to intercept drug traffic from Afghanistan,” he said. “I believe when it comes to our cooperation on the ground on both sides of the Afghan border, we have ways to step up our efforts.”

Russian-US areas of cooperation

Hillary Clinton stressed that there has been progress in bilateral relations since the overload in March 2009.

“We have made real strides in the relationship but still have a lot to do,” she said.

Clinton also claimed that it is critical that Moscow is hosting the Middle East Quartet and stated that these talks are yet another reminder that the US and Russia face many common global challenges.

“We intend to have a very broad-ranging discussion with our Quartet partners,” she said. “Our goals remain the same: It is to re-launch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians on a path that will lead to a two-state solution.”

The US Secretary of State noted that there are some challenges along the way.

“We meet them as they come, and we continue to move forward because we believe that it is in the best interest of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people,” she said. “For the Palestinians, to have a state of their own that fulfills their aspirations, and for the Israelis, to have the security that they deserve to have within their own state.”

“It’s also in regional and global interests to pursue this, and that’s what we intend to do,” she added.

Hillary Clinton will stay in Moscow for one more day, as she is to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and take part in the upcoming negotiations of the Middle East Quartet.