MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia and the United States will begin talks next week in Rome aimed at replacing a landmark Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday. Earlier this month US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev pledged to seek a successor agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) by the time it expires in December. Talks on the treaty-seen as a cornerstone of strategic arms control-made little progress under former US president George W. Bush. The first official contact on this subject will take place on April 24 in Rome, foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters. The task will be to prepare for the launch of the negotiation process in accordance with the instructions of Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, Nesterenko added. From then on US and Russian negotiators will meet regularly, and START will also be discussed at a May meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Hillary Clinton, Nesterenko said. Signed in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty placed strict limits on the number of missiles and warheads that Moscow and Washington could have, leading to steep reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both sides. Nesterenko also said Russia welcomed Obamas statement that he would seek Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would place a broad ban on nuclear explosions for testing purposes. We welcome Mr Obamas work toward the ratification of this agreement, Nesterenko said. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments published Thursday that US proposals to ease Moscows concerns over its plans to site a missile shield in Europe are merely symbolic. Overall, the measures of 'transparency and trust offered to us were mostly symbolic and could not contribute to mitigating Russian concerns, Lavrov said, answering readers questions in the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. It was unlikely that the United States would agree to a jointly controlled missile defence system, a proposal put forth by Moscow as an alternative to the US shield, he added. The US, as everyone knows, has never given control to anyone, will not now and obviously will never give up control over their strategic systems, he said. Moscow had proposed a dual key control system giving Russia the power to block launches. Lavrov dubbed the moment a historic chance but added that Russia was still waiting for the United States to prove its willingness to reset relations. But he added: The reset technology works only if the people employing it want it to. The problem is that in the last 20 years we twice unilaterally carried out such a reset with the aim of breaking down Cold War barriers, and twice we were met with the unwillingness of our partners to meet us halfway, Lavrov said. Obama said this month that he would move ahead with US plans for the missile shield, saying Iran remained a real threat but adding that the system needed to be cost-effective and proven.