Washington: US President Barack Obama may cancel his scheduled visit to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, as tension builds up between two countries over fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, media reports have said.
While there was no official word from the White House, its Press Secretary, Jay Carney, avoided questions on this issue and media reports on Thursday said that the government was considering cancelling the Obama-Putin meeting, when the US president travels to Russia to attend the G-20 Summit in St Petersburg.
"President Obama's scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September is in limbo because of uncertainty surrounding National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia and is seeking asylum there," The Washington Post reported.
The Obama Administration is asking Russia to send Snowden back to the United States where he is wanted on espionage charges for leaking classified information.
"In addition to the Snowden case, relations between the United States and Russia have become strained in recent weeks over the ongoing conflict in Syria, disputes over nuclear weapons and concerns about the Putin government's treatment of dissidents," the daily reported.
The New York Times also reported on similar lines.
"President Obama may cancel a scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin in September as the standoff over the fate of Edward J Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor seeking asylum there, takes its toll on already strained relations between the United States and Russia, officials said Thursday," the daily said.
"Cancelling the meeting in Moscow would be seen as a direct slap at Mr Putin, who is known to value such high-level visits as a validation of Russian prestige," it said.
"While the White House may be using the meeting as leverage to win cooperation as it seeks the return to the US of Snowden, who is now staying at a Moscow airport, the reconsideration also reflects a broader concern that the two countries are far apart on issues like Syria, Iran, arms control and missile defence," The New York Times reported.
Carney on Wednesday refrained from answering questions on Obama-Putin meeting in Moscow in September.
"The president intends to travel to Russia for the G-20 summit. And I have no further announcements to make beyond what we've said in the past about the president's travel to Russia in the fall," he had said in response to a question.
This would be for the second time that Obama-Putin meeting may be cancelled. Last year, when Obama hosted the Group of 8 Summit at Camp David, Putin did not come saying he was too busy in Moscow finalising his new cabinet.