WASHINGTON, July 18 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama may cancel scheduled talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow during his trip to Russia for a G20 summit in September, The New York Times reported Thursday citing US officials.
The cancellation would reflect growing tensions between Washington and Moscow “over a whole range of issues” aggravated recently by a standoff over the fate of US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who has asked for temporary asylum in Russia, the newspaper said.
“While the White House may be using the meeting as leverage to win cooperation as it seeks the return to the United States of Mr. Snowden, who is now staying at Moscow’s airport, the reconsideration also reflects a broader concern that the two countries are far apart on issues like Syria, Iran, arms control and missile defense,” The New York Times speculated.
The White House declined to comment on the report when asked by RIA Novosti on Thursday, referring to a previous statement on the Obama trip made by spokesman Jay Carney.
“I can say that the president intends to travel to Russia for the G20 summit,” Carney told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t have anything to add to what we’ve said in the past about that trip.”
Snowden, who faces prosecution in the United States for leaking highly sensitive classified data about the US National Security Agency's surveillance activities, submitted a request for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday, having been holed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport transit zone since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
Washington has repeatedly called on Moscow to reject his request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.
While President Putin has said that Moscow will not extradite Snowden to the United States, where he could face the death penalty, the Kremlin has also tried to keep its distance from the case, emphasizing that it is a human rights issue.
Putin reiterated on Wednesday that Russia had warned Snowden not to “damage Russian-American relations,” saying they are more important than any intelligence scandal.
According to pro-Kremlin lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who helped the 30-year-old former NSA analyst to file the asylum application with the Russian migration authorities, Snowden should receive an official document within seven days certifying that his application has been received and is being considered, after which he will be able to leave the airport.
The consideration of a temporary asylum request could take up to three months, according to Russian regulations.