The US and Russia remain at odds over the extension of their last major disarmament treaty, with Washington and Moscow giving clashing accounts on Tuesday of last week's talks in Helsinki.
US arms control envoy Marshall Billingslea on Tuesday suggested the two nations were making some progress towards an agreement on the future of the New START treaty, a pact that limits strategic nuclear weapons and is due to expire in February.
"We believe that there is an agreement in principle, at the highest levels in our two governments," Billingslea said in public comments at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Negotiators from Russia and the US met last week in Finland’s capital Helsinki for a new round of nuclear arms control talks.
Billingslea noted that the US was willing to extend the New START Treaty if Russia agreed to an arms freeze.
"What we've indicated to the Russians is that we are in fact willing to extend the New START treaty for some period of time, provided that they, in return, agree to a limitation, a freeze, on their nuclear arsenal. We're willing to do the same," Billingslea said.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov presented a different version of events and rejected Washington’s proposal in a statement.
"This is an unacceptable proposal," Ryabkov said, according to Russia's TASS news agency.