Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Russian, U.S. MPs discuss bilateral ties ahead of July summit


Russian, U.S. MPs discuss bilateral ties ahead of July summitMOSCOW, June 29 (RIA Novosti) - Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are in Russia on June 29-30 to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama`s visit to Moscow on July 6-8.
Opening an extended meeting of the members of foreign affairs committees to address bilateral trade, regional stability and U.S. missile defense plans in Europe, the speaker of the Russian lower house, Boris Gryzlov said: "Bilateral ties currently enjoy new possibilities and are being driven forward with increasing pace."
According to Leonid Slutsky, a deputy chairman of the State Duma committee on foreign affairs, the participants of the meeting will discuss plans for a U.S. missile shield in central Europe, and other issues related to NATO.
A discussion of the Jackson-Vanik amendment is also expected.
The Jackson-Vanik amendment was passed in 1974 and restricted trade with the Soviet Union over human rights violations. The amendment, which still applies to Russia, puts restrictions on Russian-American trade relations, but Russia`s accession to the World Trade Organization would require the amendment be lifted.
"We will also discuss topics that have emerged recently in the light of the move to `press the reset button` in bilateral relations and `re-launch` the START treaty," Slutsky said.
Russia and the U.S. have been involved in comprehensive talks over a new nuclear arms reduction deal to replace the START 1 treaty, which expires in December.
The START 1 treaty obliges Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The agreement, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama agreed to launch the discussions during their first meeting, in London in early April.
Russia, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement in 2005, expects Washington to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads, but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.
Medvedev has also said that any strategic arms cuts would only be possible if the United States alleviated Russia`s concerns over Washington`s plans for a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.
The U.S. military has recently reiterated its commitment to missile defense, citing a growing threat from North Korea and Iran, but suggested plans for a European site may change.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested that Russian facilities could be part of the missile defense system, but Moscow has rejected this idea, saying there could be no partnership "in building facilities that are essentially designed to counter Russia`s strategic deterrence forces."
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