US and Russian negotiators arrived in Geneva on Monday ready to resume talks on cutting their nuclear weapons arsenals, diplomats said.
The third round of talks on replacing the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) were to begin on Tuesday and finish Wednesday, a US official said.
Diplomats from both sides said their negotiators were already in Geneva at their respective missions, the official said.
The discussions are meant to feed into a summit between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow in early July.
The attempt to strike a new deal to succeed START, which expires on December 5, symbolises a thaw in US-Russian relations in recent months.
Last week, Medvedev reiterated Russia was aiming for much deeper cuts in strategic arsenals than those achieved by START when it came into force in 1991, echoing the US view.
However, the Russian leader underlined that the cuts could only come about if the United States addressed Moscow’s “concerns” on missile defence, an issue that has been a major stumbling block for Washington.
“We cannot agree with the US plans to deploy a global missile defence system. I want to underline that our proposals to cut (nuclear warheads) are only possible if the United States meets Russia’s concerns,” Medvedev was quoted as saying.
“In every case, the issue of the connection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons must be definitely fixed in any agreement,” he added.
The senior US negotiator, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller, said after the second round in Geneva this month that the talks had been “productive.”
Apart from deeper weapons cuts, any deal “should include effective verification measures drawn up from our experience in implementing START,” she added.