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WASHINGTON, March 27 (Itar-Tass) - Pentagon analysts are considering Sergei Shoigu's proposal to hold a meeting between the US Secretary of Defense and the Russian Defense Minister in Moscow in May this year. However, they cannot say so far whether Chuck Hagel's work schedule will allow him to visit the Russian capital within the specified period, a Defense Department official told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
The Pentagon official pointed out that a lot of factors might have an effect on a decision of this kind. Analysts are studying the work schedules but are not sure so far whether the suggested timeframe will prove suitable, he said, adding that the Defense chiefs of the two countries had a highly positive telephone talk on Monday and that Secretary Hagel expects a continuation of relations with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Anatoly Antonov, RF Deputy Minister of Defense, told journalists earlier that Shoigu, during the telephone conversation with Chuck Hagel, reiterated his written invitation to the American counterpart to participate in an International European Security Conference which is due to be held in Moscow in May.
"At the same time, the Russian Minister suggested availing oneself of the conference, to which the Defense ministers of all NATO countries have been invited, to hold a session of the Russia-NATO Council at Defense chief's level on the sidelines of the conference. Such a session could be held in Moscow on May 24. At the session, the Russian side could tell about the concept of the forthcoming strategic exercises 'Zapad (west)-2013' which worry our NATO partners so much, and discuss matters concerning military cooperation between Russia and NATO. Of course, an exchange of views on regional problems could be held as well".
Pentagon officials said, for their part, that Chuck Hagel agrees with Sergei Shoigu's proposal to resume a dialogue on ABM-related issues between the Defense agencies of the two countries. In particular, Hagel assured his Russian counterpart that the discussions would be continued, with James Miller, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, taking part in them on the American side. The Russian side at the consultations will be represented by Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov.
Coordinating work has been already started but a date for a Miller-Antonov meeting has not been determined so far, a Pentagon official told Itar-Tass. Last week, the United States declared that it abandons a fourth phase of the establishment of an ABM system in Europe, the phase which gave rise to the strongest objections on the part of Russia which feared that it would jeopardize its strategic forces and diminish their nuclear deterrent capability.