ííBUCHAREST, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin
said here Friday that his country was ready to return to an arms reduction
treaty if there was a compromise from Western nations.
"We are ready to return to the treaty but expect a mutual step," he told a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on the last day of a three-day NATO summit.
Russia imposed a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) in December 2007 in protest against U.S. plans to deploy a missile defence system in Eastern Europe and NATO's ongoing expansion.
Moscow has insisted it would resume its participation if NATO countries ratify the 1999 version of the treaty, which limits the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains.
Putin said Russia had withdrawn troops from Afghanistan and other countries and destroyed heavy weapons according to the treaty, but NATO members failed to ratify it.
NATO leaders issued a statement Thursday urging Moscow to lift its moratorium on the CFE.
"The current situation, where NATO CFE Allies implement the Treaty while Russia does not, cannot last indefinitely," the statement said.
The military alliance had offered "a set of constructive and forward-looking proposals... We believe these proposals address all of Russia's stated concerns," it added.
After the meeting, both Putin and NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described their discussion as "frank" and "open."
Despite disagreements over the CFE treaty, U.S. missile defence plans and Kosovo, "spirit of cooperation and compromise prevailed," Putin said.
"There was no hiding of views, but the spirit was positive," Scheffer told a press conference on the same day right before Putin's.
Putin is expected to continue talks on the topic and the U.S. missile defense system with his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush Sunday.