MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday Moscow was ready to work with Washington to save a key arms control treaty, calling on Europe to help in the talks.
Moscow’s top diplomat spoke after fresh talks between US and Russian officials in Geneva to salvage the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) went nowhere.
“We are still ready to work to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” Lavrov told reporters.
He called on European nations to help influence Washington, saying they had a major stake in the issue and should not be “at the tail-end of the US position”.
Last month Washington said it would withdraw from the INF treaty within 60 days if Russia did not dismantle missiles that the US claims breach the deal.
Russia denies it has violated the treaty, which forbids ground-launched short- and intermediate-range missiles.
On Tuesday, US and Russian diplomats blamed each other for pushing the agreement to the brink of collapse. Russians said Americans had confirmed Washington’s intention to exit the treaty from February 2.
Lavrov slammed Washington’s position, saying the potential for conflict was increasing and expressing the hope that it would be possible to save another key arms control agreement, the New START, which expires in 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the INF treaty if it is scrapped.
Putin said that if Washington moved to place more missiles in Europe after ditching the deal, Russia would respond “in kind” and that any European countries agreeing to host US missiles would be at risk of a Russian attack.
Signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty bans ground-launched missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.
The deal resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targetting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors like China.