News / USA

Obama to Hold Formal News Conference Friday

President Barack Obama speaks to the media at the White House, Aug. 1, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaks to the media at the White House, Aug. 1, 2013.
— President Barack Obama will hold a formal news conference Friday. The decision to cancel a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and terrorism threats that forced the temporary closure of U.S. embassies, are likely to dominate the event.

It will be Obama's first opportunity to speak publicly about his decision to cancel the summit with President Putin.  They were to have met in Moscow before next month's G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

In explaining the decision, the White House has said that despite cooperation with Russia in several areas, there was not enough progress on key issues in the bilateral agenda to make a summit constructive.

Russia's decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the admitted leaker of information about U.S. electronic surveillance programs, was a "factor" as the White House put it, in the summit decision.

Obama will have a chance to expand on that when he addresses the media in the East Room.

On Thursday, spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. position remains that Snowden should be returned to the United States to face espionage charges.  

With U.S. and Russian officials going ahead with Washington talks on Friday, Carney said Snowden is just one of many issues on which to engage with Russia in a relationship marked by challenges.

"We still do have cooperation with the Russians on number of important issues, and we will continue to engage with the Russians as we are tomorrow to try to make progress on those and other areas.  But there is no question that we have run into some obstacles on some important issues," said Carney.

Other issues include the political crisis in Egypt, and the civil war in Syria, including the status of arms and aid flows to Syrian rebels, in addition to domestic issues such as his push for comprehensive immigration reform.

President Obama is also certain to be asked about the terrorism threat warning that forced the temporary closure of nearly two dozen U.S. embassies across the Middle East, North Africa and other areas.

Asked how long the current level of vigilance would have to be maintained,  Obama's spokesman declined to provide a time line, but stressed the very specific nature of the threat.

"This was not the ongoing, generalized reality that we have groups and individuals out there in the world who want to do harm to the United States, this was more specific than that," said Carney.

On the diplomatic rebuke to President Putin, White House spokesman Carney was asked whether President Obama and President Putin might still meet at some point in St. Petersburg during the G20 summit.

Since Russia is hosting the summit, Carney said it is likely the two will meet, but not in any formal bilateral session.

Friday's news conference comes a day before Obama and his family are due to depart Washington for a nine-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

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