Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Obama cancels summit with Vladimir Putin - Irish Times

President Barack Obama has cancelled a summit meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, officials said yesterday, a response to frustration at the Moscow for refusing to send Edward Snowden, the fugitive intelligence analyst, to the United States to face charges of leaking national security secrets.

The move is also a reflection of growing tensions between the two countries on a series of other issues, including Mr Putin's continuing support of President Bashar Assad of Syria. In a statement, the White House said the president had decided to postpone the summit between the two leaders after concluding there had not been enough progress made on the "bilateral agenda" to make a meeting worthwhile.

Lack of progress
"Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defence and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, 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," Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Mr Carney said Russia's "disappointing decision" to grant temporary asylum to Mr Snowden was "also a factor" in Mr Obama's decision.

The Kremlin expressed disappointment, especially with the president's linking of the decision to the case of Mr Snowden. A senior aide to Mr Putin, Yuri V Ushakov, said Mr Obama was still welcome to visit, but blamed the US for not wanting to build a stronger partnership to manage bilateral and international issues.

"This very problem underlines the fact that the United States is still not ready to build relations on an equal basis," Mr Ushakov told reporters at the Kremlin, according to the Interfax news agency.

G20 plans
The day-long meeting between the two leaders had been anticipated for months. It was to have taken place in Moscow in September around the time Mr Obama travels to St Petersburg for the Group of 20 economic summit. Officials said Mr Obama would still travel to Russia for the economic discussions with other world leaders.

Russia's decision to extend temporary asylum to Mr Snowden last week added to the White House's annoyance with Mr Putin's intransigence.

In a late-night interview with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show on Tuesday, Mr Obama expressed that frustration.

"There have been times where they slip back into cold war thinking and a cold war mentality . . . And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that's the past and we've got to think about the future, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to co-operate more effectively than we do."

Mr Obama's decision to forgo the summit meeting with Mr Putin, which was first reported by the Associated Press, is a blow to Mr Putin that will deprive him of a high-profile moment on the worldwide stage. It also threatens to add to the already chilly relationship between the two countries.

It is the first time any US president has cancelled a publicly announced presidential visit in Russia since the end of the cold war.

In an interview with Reuters last night, Mr Snowden's father Lon praised Mr Putin's stance.

"President Vladimir Putin has stood firm. I respect strength and I respect courage," Mr Snowden said. "He has stood firm against the face of intense pressure from our government and I have to believe that he will continue to stand firm." – (New York Times service/Reuters)
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