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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency in Moscow on Nov. 9, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency in Moscow on Nov. 9, 2022. (Sergei Bobylyov, Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Russia said it will hold talks with the U.S. from late November to early December in Cairo about inspections of atomic weapons sites under the New START treaty, a first step toward reviving broader arms-control talks suspended since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The consultations in the Egyptian capital will last about a week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday, according to state news service RIA Novosti.

Russia barred US inspectors from its nuclear weapons sites in August, citing visa and travel restrictions for Russians that it said made it impossible for them to reach the U.S. The two countries had suspended the on-site inspections in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and were discussing how to restart them safely. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, which handles practical matters on how the New START deal is implemented, last met in Geneva in October 2021.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this week the BCC will meet in the “near future” but declined to offer details. He said the US was “realistic” about what can be achieved from negotiations with Russia but it was important to make sure the two countries retain the ability to talk to each other. Ryabkov said it’s unlikely an agreement on restarting the inspections can be reached in a matter of days in Cairo, Tass reported.

While the U.S. has cut off most contacts with Russia over the invasion, some channels remain. In Moscow, officials have called for a resumption of broader strategic dialogue, including on a possible successor treaty to New START. The U.S. has said that’s not possible until the inspections resume.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday confirmed that the U.S. had had high-level contacts with Russia, while declining to comment on reports that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently held secret talks with aides to President Vladimir Putin in an effort to halt the slide toward nuclear escalation. Sullivan himself confirmed communication channels remain open between Moscow and Washington, saying it was “in the interests” of the US to maintain contact with the Kremlin, the BBC reported.

Putin and President Joe Biden’s administration extended the New START treaty for five years in 2021, giving the former Cold War rivals time for new talks on strategic security. Putin’s attack on Ukraine in February has sparked a spiral of confrontation, with the US spending billions of dollars on military and financial support for Kyiv. The U.S. has accused Russia of dangerous nuclear saber-rattling.

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