US, Russia soften tone in missile talks

March 18th, 2008 - 8:50 pm ICT by admin  

DPA
Moscow, March 18 (DPA) Top US and Russian officials promised cooperation Tuesday in day two of talks here over vehemently disputed US plans to deploy a missile defence shield in Europe that Russia views as a threat to its security. The strategic cooperation and security meeting was the first time US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates had face to face interaction with Russia’s president-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

Both sides used the window to ensure the continuity of bilateral cooperation after relations soured in recent months over hot button security issues such as Iran, the US missile defence plans, expiring arms control treaties and Kosovo’s independence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the two “great powers” had a natural understanding for the importance of “minimizing differences” and “reaching agreements,” Interfax news agency reported.

Rice in turn said she hoped the day’s discussions would serve to hammer out the details of positive communications between US President George W. Bush and outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his successor.

Lavrov stressed Tuesday that telephone talks between Bush and Medvedev three days before the meeting further solidified positive intentions heading into the meetings.

Medvedev, who won by a landslide in March 2 elections, has promised to follow Putin’s course and appoint him prime minister, contradicting early conjectures about possible policy changes.

While opening negotiations Monday Putin called a letter from his US counterpart “a very serious document” that set a “productive” tone and could lead to a breakthrough in talks on missile defence.

“If we can agree on the main points (of the message), our dialogue will be productive,” Putin told reporters ahead of the meeting at the Kremlin Monday.

Ties between Washington and Moscow have come to a head over US plans to deploy a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The increasing tensions over conflicting international security views are reminiscent of Cold War clashes over the US policy of containment.

The US says it wants to base the system in eastern Europe by 2013 to protect against Iran’s growing ballistic missile capability. But Russia believes the system would threaten its nuclear deterrent and has warned it could target the Polish and Czech sites.
DPA

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