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Russian foreign minister tells US to behave ‘like grown-ups’

usa-russia-diplomacy-hagel-kerry-600x350By Jon Swaine

Sergei Lavrov chided the US administration two days after President Barack Obama scrapped a summit with Mr Putin when Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the fugitive US spy.

“We need to work as grown-ups,” he told a press conference in Washington alongside John Kerry, the US Secretary of State. “This is what we do. And we hope that this will be reciprocal”.

Mr Obama reacted furiously this week to Russia’s approval of temporary asylum for Mr Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor who gave secret documents to the media.

Accusing Moscow of a “slip back into Cold War thinking”, the president pulled out of a planned bilateral meeting with Mr Putin in Moscow before the G20 summit in St Petersburg next month.

Mr Lavrov and Sergei Shoygu, the Russian defence minister, kept to a scheduled visit to the US capital yesterday for meetings with Mr Kerry and Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary.

Mr Kerry, who aides said would renew the American demand for Mr Snowden’s return, admitted: “It’s no secret we have experienced some challenging moments, and not just over the Snowden case.”

A senior foreign ministry official told Russian state media yesterday the Kremlin saw “no topic for discussion” on Mr Snowden as the decision to grant him asylum had already been made.

Accusing the US of “blowing the situation out of proportion,” Sergei Ryabkov insisted Moscow had no choice but to protect Mr Snowden from a potential death penalty in the US.

Conceding the two states at times have “colliding and conflicting interests”, Mr Kerry yesterday tried to salvage scraps of co-operation on issues such as the Syrian civil war and missile defence.

“Sergei Lavrov and I are old hockey players, and we both know that diplomacy, like hockey, can sometimes result in the occasional collision,” he told the press conference before their meeting.

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