MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian and U.S. officials will begin negotiating a new deal next week to cut strategic nuclear weapons, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on April 16.
The deal aims to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1) and has been billed as part of an effort by Moscow and Washington to reset relations that hit a post-Cold War low under former U.S. President George W. Bush.
"The first official contact on this theme will take place on April 24 in Rome," chief Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said at a news conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. counterpart Hillary Clinton have provisionally arranged to meet in May to discuss the progress in the talks ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Russia in July, Nesterenko said.
At a meeting in London earlier this month Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to start talks on replacing START 1, a treaty which led to huge bilateral cuts in nuclear weapons, but which expires in December.
The proposed arms deal would go beyond the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which committed both sides to cutting arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012.
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Russia currently has 3,113 strategic warheads compared with 3,575 for the United States.
Russia sees START 1 as the cornerstone of post-Cold War arms control and believes that letting it lapse with no replacement could upset the strategic balance.