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Russia, US ready for deal to extend N pact

October 22, 2020 00:00:00

MOSCOW, Oct 21 (AP): Russia said Tuesday it's ready to accept a US proposal to freeze the number of nuclear warheads and extend the two nations' last arms control pact for one year and Washington responded that it's prepared to make a quick deal.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus welcomed the Russian offer and said that the US is ready to quickly clinch an agreement.

"We appreciate the Russian Federation's willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control," Ortagus said in a statement. "The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same."

The statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry marked a shift in Moscow's position after Russia and the U.S. rejected each other's offers regarding the New START treaty that expires in February.

The ministry noted that it's ready for a deal if the US does the same and doesn't put forward any additional demands, the statement read.

The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by then U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, the New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Russia has offered its extension without any conditions, while President Donald Trump's administration initially pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China.

It recently modified its stance and proposed a one-year extension of the 2010 treaty, but said this must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads.

The cap would cover warheads attached to battlefield weapons, which are limited by the New START treaty that only restricts strategic nuclear arsenals.

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