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Snowden situation not significant enough to affect Russia-US relations

August 02, 2013, 4:44 UTC+3

Obama is scheduled to come to Moscow in early September to meet with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg

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NOVO OGAREVO, August 2 (Itar-Tass) - Snowden arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport from Hong Kong on June 23 and was staying in its transition zone since then. He applied for temporary asylum in Russia.

Earlier he had passed to the press information about mass electronic surveillance by the U.S. authorities under the PRISM programme and claimed that American security services watched and recorded people’s actions and conversations even if they did nothing wrong.

He said security services were gathering information primarily about the users of popular search servers and social networks.

U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said at a press briefing on Thursday, August 1, that the Russian authorities’ decision to grant temporary asylum to Snowden was “an extremely disappointing step.”

She said the U.S. authorities “continue to press with the Russian Government that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will face a free and fair trial.”

Harf stressed that “this move by the Russian Government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombings. So we will continue to make that point with the Russian Government at all points in this process.”

She said “Mr. Snowden is wanted on very serious charges and that he needs to be returned to the United States to face those charges.”

At the same time, Harf confirmed that there are areas where the two countries work together. “We’ll continue to do so because it’s in our interest to do so. There are areas where we disagree, as we’ve talked about, not just Snowden but others. And again, we’re evaluating our summit, the 2+2. We’re looking at that right now. So clearly this could have an impact, but the relationship is a broad one where we have many national security interests as well,” she said.

Obama is scheduled to come to Moscow in early September to meet with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

However mass media reports quoted a source in the U.S. Department of State as saying that Obama might cancel the visit if Snowden would still be in Russia by that time.

On July 8, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said he was busy preparing Obama’s visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

On July 17, White House Spokesperson Jay Carney officially said that Obama was not planning to cancel his upcoming trip to Russia in September but did not say whether he would only attend the G20 summit in St. Petersburg or travel to Moscow as well.

The journalists asked him whether Obama would only go to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg or would also travel to Moscow as was planned initially.

Carney said he had nothing new to say on this matter and reiterated that the president would go to Russia in September.

Obama will visit Russia in September, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The Kremlin said that Obama’s visit to Russia scheduled for this autumn may begin in Moscow and continue in St. Petersburg where a G20 summit is to be held on September 5-6.

“We proposed a full-scale visit [by Obama], the invitation was handed over last year and we will now be working on concrete parameters of this visit,” Ushakov said earlier.

“We would prefer it [the visit] to take place in Moscow and then the two presidents could continue working at the G20 in St. Petersburg,” he said.

At the same time, the aide said the programme of the visit “is not fully agreed yet.”

“This is routine diplomatic work. There will be a meeting of the two presidents in Northern Ireland first [at the G8 summit on June 17-18],” Ushakov said.

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