(RIA Novosti) - Moscow expects the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear problem will resume before the end of the year, the Russian foreign minister said Saturday, reports Trend.
The six-nation talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 to persuade North Korea to give up its controversial nuclear program after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"We hope that the heads of the six-nation delegations will have first contacts in mid-November and will agree on resuming the negotiations before the end of the year," Sergei Lavrov said.
He said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev will soon go to Beijing to join the other six-nation partners.
Lavrov said earlier the date of six-nation talks is being coordinated and the talks will be held in the near future.
"The date for the resumption of talks is being coordinated. We hope that it will not be in the too distant future," Sergei Lavrov said.
He said Russia welcomes the decision to resume the six-nation talks with the participation of North Korea, adding that Moscow assigns a special role in the process to the Chinese.
The talks stalled last November over Pyongyang's demand that the U.S. lift sanctions imposed on it for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.
Russia advocates the resumption of talks, and has called on the United States and North Korea to take a more flexible approach to the standoff to end the deadlock.
North Korea hinted following its nuclear test that it might be willing to return to the negotiating table if Washington agrees to drop its sanctions.
President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Moscow in October. Rice hailed Pyongyang's declared willingness to re-engage in talks, but said Washington's financial sanctions on Pyongyang will remain in place.
North Korea announced it conducted its first nuclear test October 9, and threatened to take "physical measures" after the UN Security Council unanimously voted October 14 to pass a resolution imposing sanctions on the reclusive Communist state.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il told Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan during talks October 18-19 in Pyongyang that the country has no plans to conduct another nuclear test, but warned that "the country might take further action if pressure on North Korea continues."
"The situation should never lead to a deadlock," President Putin said October 25. "None of the negotiating parties should be driven into a corner, with no way out except by escalating tensions."
Putin said that diplomacy should be the only way for the international community to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear tests.