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USA

Obama cancels meeting with Putin amid Snowden tension

© AFP

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-08-08

US President Barack Obama has cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month amid tension over Russia's decision to grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum. Obama is still set to attend next month's G20 economic summit in Russia.

President Barack Obama is canceling plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month - a rare diplomatic snub.

The move is retribution for Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who is accused of leaking highly secretive details about National Security Agency surveillance programs. It also reflects growing U.S. frustration with Russia on several issues, including missile defense and human rights.

A top White House official says Obama still attends to plan the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, but has no plans to meet with Putin there one-on-one.

Obama said in an interview Tuesday that he was "disappointed" by Russia’s move to grant Snowden asylum for one year. He said it also reflected the "underlying challenges" the U.S. faces in dealing with Moscow.

“There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

Obama and Putin last met in June on the sidelines of the Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. told the Russian government Wednesday morning that Obama believed “it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda.”

Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, the president will add a stop in Sweden to his early September travel itinerary.

In Moscow, the Kremlin expressed its disappointment but said it remains ready to work with the United States on a variety of issues. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters the move reflected the inability of the U.S. to develop relations with Moscow on an "equal basis." He said the invitation to Obama to visit Moscow next month still stands.

“This decision is clearly linked to the situation with former agent of U.S. special services (Edward) Snowden, which hasn’t been created by us,” Ushakov said.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Russia’s decision last week to defy the U.S. only worsened an already troubled relationship. And with few signs that progress would be made during the Moscow summit on other agenda items, Rhodes said the president decided to cancel the talks.

“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” Rhodes said.

Obama’s decision is likely to deepen the chill in the already frosty relationship between the two leaders.

They have frequently found themselves at odds on pressing international issues, most recently in Syria, where the U.S. accuses Putin of helping President Bashar Assad fund a civil war. The U.S. has also been a vocal critic of Russia’s crackdown on Kremlin critics and recently sanctioned 18 Russians for human rights violations.

Moscow has accused the U.S. of installing a missile shield in Eastern Europe as a deterrent against Russia, despite American assurances that the shield is not aimed at its former Cold War foe. Putin also signed a law last year banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children, a move that was seen as retaliation for the U.S. measure that cleared the way for the human rights sanctions.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are still preparing for meetings in Washington on Friday with their Russian counterparts. Snowden’s status is expected to be a main topic of conversation.

Some congressional lawmakers have called for Obama to demand that Russia forfeit its right to host the G-20 summit. Others have spoken of boycotting next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.

Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that “Putin doesn’t deserve the respect after what he’s done with Snowden.” He told CNN, “I know what he’s doing. He’s trying to make Russia a big power again. To show him the respect at the bilateral talks doesn’t make sense.”

In his interview Tuesday, Obama defended his decision to attend the G-20 summit, an annual gathering of the world’s largest economies. Given the U.S. role in an increasingly interdependent global economy, Obama said it made sense to have high-level representation.

The G-20 summit is scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5-6. The White House said Obama would arrive in Stockholm, Sweden, on Sept. 4 for his first visit as president to the Northern European nation.

Rhodes said Sweden has been an important U.S. partner on clean energy issues and will be part of a U.S. trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union.

(AP)

Date created : 2013-08-07

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