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Obama Cancels Summit With Putin, Cites Snowden Asylum

RIA Novosti

18:32 07/08/2013

WASHINGTON, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - US President Barack Obama has canceled plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for a one-on-one summit next month, the White House said Wednesday, saying Moscow's "disappointing decision" to grant asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was a factor in the move.

"We have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia Summit in early September," the White House said in the statement.

"Russia's disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship," the White House added.

The two leaders had been scheduled to meet in Moscow early next month ahead of the G20 meeting of top world leaders that begins Sept. 5 in St. Petersburg.

But the bilateral meeting was called into question by officials in Washington after Russia granted temporary asylum to Snowden, who is wanted on espionage charges in the United States in connection with classified information he leaked to the global media about secret US government telephone and electronic surveillance programs.

Snowden was granted asylum last week after spending a month in a transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. Washington has repeatedly called on Russia to expel Snowden and made clear immediately after he was granted asylum that the Obama-Putin summit was in jeopardy.

Putin had said he did not want the Snowden affair to damage Russia's relations with the United States. US lawmakers and officials, however, have described Moscow's decision to protect Snowden as a "slap in the face" to the United States and urged Obama to reconsider his entire approach to relations with Russia.

The White House confirmed Wednesday that Obama still plans to attend the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg that will be hosted by Putin.

Earlier, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was quoted by The Associated Press (AP) as saying Wednesday that Russia's decision to grant asylum to Snowden exacerbated already frayed ties between the two countries.

"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, the AP reported.

The White House cited a lack of progress in a broad range of key bilateral issues in explaining its decision to cancel the summit, including "issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months."

The White House statement did however hold out the prospect of a future Obama-Putin summit.

"We have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," the White House said.

The White House said in Wednesday's statement that US-Russia cooperation on these issues "remains a priority for the United States" and that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would "discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship" at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu scheduled for Friday in Washington.

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