Russia "disappointed" bilateral talks with US cancelled

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, 17 June 2013 The US and Russian leaders last met at a G8 summit in June

The Kremlin says it is "disappointed" the US cancelled bilateral talks in September, after Russia granted asylum to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign affairs adviser said the move showed the US could not develop ties with Russia on an "equal basis".

A White House aide said Mr Snowden's asylum had deepened the pre-existing tension between the two counties.

But Mr Obama still plans to attend the G20 economic talks in St Petersburg.

Mr Snowden, a former intelligence contractor, has admitted leaking information about US surveillance programmes to the media.

'Not enough progress'

Russian foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said on Wednesday Russia was not to blame over the Snowden affair.

"This decision is clearly linked to the situation with former agent of US special services [Edward] Snowden, which hasn't been created by us," he said during a phone conference with the press.

Analysis

Relations between Washington and Moscow were not good, with divisions over a range of issues - not least Syria - even before the fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden pitched up at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. They certainly have not got any better since the Russian authorities granted him temporary asylum in the country.

If Mr Snowden had gone swiftly on his way, then this might have remained just another irritant in US-Russia relations. But now the Americans have felt compelled to respond. That is going to make the G20 gathering itself in St Petersburg a potentially embarrassing affair.

The fallout over the Snowden affair is a symptom of a much more fundamental crisis in US-Russia relations that has continued despite the effort during Mr Obama's first term to "reset" relations with Moscow. These are no longer equivalent powers and they have so far not found a way to co-operate on terms that benefit both.

"For many years, the Americans have avoided signing an extradition agreement," Mr Ushakov said, "And they have invariably responded negatively to our requests for extradition of people who committed crimes on the territory of Russia, pointing at the absence of such agreement."

But he added the invitation for the bilateral summit was still open.

"Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda," Mr Ushakov said.

The decision to cancel the talks, announced during a trip by the US president to Los Angeles, comes the morning after Mr Obama said he was "disappointed" with Russia's decision to offer Mr Snowden asylum for a year.

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

In addition to Russia's "disappointing decision" to grant Mr Snowden temporary asylum, the White House cited a lack of progress on issues ranging from missile defence to human rights.

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

'No patience'

The decision to cancel the US-Russia summit comes the day after Mr Obama appeared on an evening chat show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in which he condemned a newly enacted anti-gay law in Russia.

"I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them," Mr Obama said.

But the White House reaffirmed Mr Obama's commitment to attending an upcoming round of G20 economic talks, which take place on 5-6 September in the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Mr Obama and Mr Putin last met in June, on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Mr Snowden, an American former National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor and CIA worker, in June leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers documents and details relating to NSA programmes that gather data on telephone calls and emails.

Mr Snowden, 30, fled his home in Hawaii, where he worked at a small NSA installation, to Hong Kong, and subsequently to Russia. He faces espionage charges in the US.

He spent about a month in a transit area of the Moscow airport as the US pressured other countries to deny him asylum. On 1 August, he left the airport after the Russian government said it would give him asylum there for a year.

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