U.S. and Russian negotiators emerged optimistic on Friday from talks aimed at creating a new treaty to reduce their nuclear weapon stockpiles.
The goal is to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, before it expires in December. The seminal deal capped the number of warheads and reduced ways of delivering them. Both sides have said they are ready for further cuts.
Negotiators said Friday's one-day meeting focused on procedural issues, setting the pace for further discussions. More meetings will take place in Washington and Moscow in the next two months ahead of President Barack Obama's first visit to Russia in July.
"We expect on the basis of this very productive meeting today that we will have a good report for them in July," said Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance.
The two sides are hopeful they will meet the deadline for a new treaty, said Anatoly Antonov, chief of security and disarmament issues at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"I hope we are capable to prepare a new draft by the end of the year, or at least do our utmost," he told reporters at a joint news conference with Gottemoeller at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
The new treaty is considered the first step in the no-nuclear agenda embraced by Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in a joint April 1 declaration.
The two administrations also have made the agreement the centerpiece of efforts to revive strained U.S.-Russian ties.
"We are sure that this new treaty will help improve relations between the United States and the Russian Federation," Antonov said.
The United States has 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads deployed; Russia has 2,800.
The two sides agreed to further warhead cuts in 2002, and Russian and American arms control experts believe that the START replacement treaty would seek to cut arsenals to 1,500 on each side.
More on Russia