BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei – The Syrian crisis and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden are the hot-button topics Tuesday at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Brunei.
Kerry wants to talk to Lavrov about Russia's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which is fighting against opposition forces armed by Western and Arab nations, and the case involving Snowden, which has strained U.S.-Russia relations.
Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. on three charges of espionage, has been on the run since releasing sensitive NSA documents. He is believed to have been in the Moscow airport's transit zone since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The U.S. has annulled his passport, and Ecuador, where he had hoped to get asylum, has been giving mixed signals about offering him shelter.
After Snowden applied for political asylum to remain in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow that Snowden would have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wanted asylum there -- and he added that Snowden seemed unwilling to stop publishing leaks of classified material.
Snowden has expanded his requests for asylum to more than 20 countries, including China, according to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group that has adopted Snowden and his cause.
As Lavrov strode into the meeting room, a reporter asked whether he and Kerry were going to talk about asylum for Snowden. Lavrov asked the reporter not to shout questions at him. Kerry then guided him away, telling reporters the two would be talking about a number of issues.
Three U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the Snowden case, have said Washington is trying to persuade Russia to deport Snowden either directly to the United States or to a third country, possibly in eastern Europe, that would then hand him over to U.S. authorities.