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Russia won't retaliate over Obama summit snub

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Russia said Friday it would not retaliate over US President Barack Obama's decision to cancel a high-profile meeting in Moscow with Vladimir Putin over a range of disputes.

The Russian president's top foreign policy aide said Moscow hoped that contacts between the two former Cold War foes would resume shortly, after relations plunged to their one of their lowest levels in the past 20 years.

"We have received this calmly and know that sooner or later contacts will be resumed," Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"How would we retaliate? We said we were disappointed but emphasised the invitation remains in force."

The summit with Putin was cancelled shortly after Russia awarded one-year asylum to the US intelligence leader Edward Snowden who Washington wants to put on trial.

The 30-year-old is wanted in the United States on espionage charges related to his disclosure of classified secrets of high-tech US surveillance programmes.

Obama will still be joining other world leaders in Saint Petersburg for the September 5-6 G20 summit that Putin will be hosting in his native city.

The US president's direct meeting with Putin had initially been due to be held in Moscow in the runup to the Saint Petersburg talks.

Ushakov said no bilateral meeting between the two leaders is currently planned at the G20.

The White House had stressed that its decision to abandon the talks with Putin was linked not only to Snowden but also a range of other irreconcilable differences with the Kremlin that include the crisis in Syria.

Ushakov said Putin had initially been ready to hold direct talks with Obama despite Washington's anger over Snowden.

But the Kremlin aide added that Moscow had also been prepared for the possibility that Obama may decide to cancel the meeting.

"We were both ready for the visit and the possibility that it might be cancelled," Ushakov told the Russian news agencies.

"For this reason, we responded calmly (to Obama's decision)," Putin's top foreign policy aide said.

Instead of visiting Moscow to meet Putin, Obama will be calling in on Sweden for talks on his way to Saint Petersburg, a detail which has clearly not impressed the Kremlin.

"As for the logic that implies that there is something to discuss with Sweden but nothing to talk about with Moscow -- well, this logic is open to discussion," a Kremlin source was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

The White House stressed on Thursday that its contacts with Moscow would not halt completely despite the bilateral summit's cancellation.

The two countries' foreign and defence chiefs were meeting in Washington Friday for talks likely to focus on Syria and European missile defence -- a meeting that both sides said should go ahead despite the most recent spat.

Ushakov said Moscow "was prepared to work with Washington on all issues -- both bilateral and international ones".

"Whether President Obama comes or not, we will still be working using other channels," Ushakov stressed.

sjw-zak/hmn

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130809/russia-wont-retaliate-over-obama-summit-snub-0