RUSSIAN FM: MAKE MIDDLE EAST NUCLEAR WEAPONS-FREE ZONE

COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 8 Mar 2009

Reuters

Russia repeated on Saturday its call for the Middle East to be made a nuclear weapons-free zone.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, addressing a disarmament conference after holding bilateral talks in Geneva on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said:

"The task to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the Middle East remains urgent. We consistently advocate this region to become a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and eventually, a zone free from all other types of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Lavrov also called for a successor deal with the United States to their Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), saying this was a priority in ‘resetting’ their relations as Washington has urged.

"We are prepared, as was suggested by our American partners, to "reset" our relations … Conclusion of a new legally-binding Russian-American treaty on strategic offensive weapons could become a priority step in that direction."

He quoted President Dmitry Medvedev as saying that the agreement should be "forward-looking" and should limit not only nuclear warheads but also strategic delivery systems.

Lavrov also called for the "weaponization of outer space" to be prevented and urged Barack Obama’s administration to ratify a global treaty banning underground nuclear tests.

Clinton, speaking on Friday, also saw a new strategic arms treaty as a priority for Russia-U.S. relations.

The United States wanted to reach agreement by the end of this year, when the START I treaty expires, she said.

Lavrov has called the 1991 pact "obsolete".

Clinton said they wanted to present a plan to U.S. President Barack Obama and Medvedev before they meet at the G20 summit in London on April 2, so they could agree on instructions to be given to negotiators.

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