Russia keen for talks on missile defence: Pentagon

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called his United States (US) counterpart Chuck Hagel on Monday and expressed a desire to hold high-level talks on missile defense, the Pentagon announced.

US Secretary of Defense Hagel said the desire to maintain discussions on the issue at deputy minister level were "an important part of US-Russian relations".

Mr Shoigu's call to Mr Hagel follows a US decision to abandon the final phase of a planned anti-missile system in Europe designed to combat Iran's ballistic missile threat but deeply unpopular in Moscow.

Although the US decision was seen by analysts as a key to reviving arms control talks with Russia, Russian officials have reacted coolly to the development, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov insisting it had not been viewed as a "concession".

US President Barack Obama vowed in his State of the Union address in February to work with the Kremlin to reduce both Russian and American stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Since the ratification of the START Treaty, which was signed by Mr Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, talks between the two former Cold War rivals have stalled.

Meanwhile the Pentagon said on Monday that Mr Hagel and Mr Shoigu had discussed a range of issues in their call, including the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.