Key U.S. and Russian officials are meeting in Washington Friday for talks on several issues that are dividing the two countries.
The discussions come at a low point in relations between the U.S. and Russia, two days after President Barack Obama called off next month's planned summit in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has been particularly angered that Russia granted temporary asylum to former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, refusing to expel him to stand trial on espionage charges in the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss the Snowden case, as well as a range of issues of importance to both nations, including Syria, global security and human rights.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday the U.S. wants to discuss key issues with Russia, but that there is not enough agreement at the moment to warrant an Obama-Putin summit.
"We did not see, on a range of fronts, the kind of sufficient progress on some of the major issues that we are engaging with the Russians on, to merit a summit. Mr. Snowden was a factor, but not the only factor. And when you have summits like these you want the kind of progress prior to them to be sufficient enough to merit a meeting of the leaders."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says that aside from Snowden, there is still much to discuss with the Russians, including Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and efforts to organize an international peace conference on Syria.
Snowden, a former intelligence contractor, admitted leaking details of secret National Security Agency surveillance programs that gather information on telephone calls and Internet use. Snowden says U.S. citizens have the right to know their government is spying on them. The NSA says the programs stopped several terrorist plots.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong, then to Russia, to avoid prosecution.