US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have announced that, among other areas of cooperation, the two countries will hold discussions towards a further agreement to reduce their nuclear arsenals.
|Presidents Medvedev and Obama meet in London (Image: Kremlin)
Obama and Medvedev met in London as world leaders convened for the G20 summit, which started today. In a joint statement issued after their meeting, the two presidents said: "Reaffirming that the era when our countries viewed each other as enemies is long over, and recognizing our many common interests, we today established a substantive agenda for Russia and the United States to be developed over the coming months and years."
Amongst the subjects discussed by the presidents was nuclear arms control and reduction. They announced that they had "agreed to work together to fulfill our obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world."
Under the current Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (Sort) between the USA and Russia, both parties agreed to limit their nuclear arsenal to 1700-2200 operationally deployed warheads each. The Sort treaty expires at the end of 2012. The previous treaty - known as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) - is set to expire at the end of 2009.
In their statement, Obama and Medvedev said they had "agreed to pursue new and verifiable reductions in our strategic offensive arsenals in a step-by-step process, beginning by replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new, legally-binding treaty. We are instructing our negotiators to start talks immediately on this new treaty and to report on results achieved in working out the new agreement by July." The two countries plan to conclude this agreement before the Start Treaty expires in December.
In addition, the USA and Russia will carry out joint efforts to strengthen the international regime for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
"Together, we seek to secure nuclear weapons and materials, while promoting the safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," the statement noted. "We support the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and stress the importance of the IAEA safeguards system. We seek universal adherence to IAEA comprehensive safeguards."
The presidents said, "We welcome the work of the IAEA on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle and encourage efforts to develop mutually beneficial approaches with states considering nuclear energy or considering expansion of existing nuclear energy programs in conformity with their rights and obligations under the NPT. To facilitate cooperation in the safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, both sides will work to bring into force the bilateral Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy."
Concluding, Obama and Medvedev said that they are "ready to move beyond Cold War mentalities and chart a fresh start in relations between our two countries."
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said he "welcomes and is greatly encouraged" by the presidents' statement. He noted that the commitments made by Obama and Medvedev "would also contribute to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime by creating a much needed momentum for the universal adherence to comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols and the enhancement of the safeguards system."