Obama and Medvedev Meet; New Arms Treaty Deadline Pushed to Next Year

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met today in Copenhagen in an effort to complete the nuclear disarmament treaty to replace the START treaty that expired on December 5 , with no indication it will be completed before 2010.

“Our main focus today was the START treaty, the new START treaty that we had been negotiating,” President Obama said. “We’ve been making excellent progress. We are quite close to an agreement.”

Whereas in the past the White House had expressed confidence that the new treaty would be signed -- if not ratified by the Senate and the Russian Duma -- by December 5, a deadline they later changed to the end of the year , today President Obama would only say he’s “confident that it will be completed in a timely fashion.”

After the meeting, Medvedev aide Sergei Eduardovich Prikhodko told reporters that no agreement will be made before the end of the year, and that negotiations “will continue in January. The presidents have expressed confidence that in the foreseeable future, the work will be completed.”

Speaking in Russian, Medvedev said there were “certain technical details... which require further work. I hope that we will be able to do that in a brief period of time.”

U.S. officials said those details mostly deal with verification, the ability of the two countries to monitor each other and ensure each is abiding by the agreement.

President Obama thanked Medvedev “for being a very effective partner in these negotiations. We wish him a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Medvedev said that he was in Copenhagen “to move forward on climate issues” but “it would be unreasonable not to use this opportunity to discuss what we’ve been working on in very coordinated and persistent manner. And I would like to thank Mr. Obama and his negotiating team talking about the new treaty on the reduction of strategic arms.”

Medvedev said the U.S. and Russian “positions are very close and almost all of the issues that we’ve been discussing for the last month are almost close.”

The Russian president also offered a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) were also at the meeting.

-- jpt

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