U.S.-Russia Talks Undeterred

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

The United States will hold talks with Russia’s defense and foreign ministers in Washington on Friday despite Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The State Department, confirming a report by Reuters, said the talks would go ahead and that Snowden’s case would be among the issues raised when Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meet their Russian counterparts.

“We have raised Mr. Snowden with Russian officials many times in recent weeks. We expect to do so again,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We would like to see Mr. Snowden return to the United States. I don’t know technically what that requires, but we know they have the capability to do that.”

Moscow’s rejection of U.S. pleas to hand him over and grant him a year’s asylum on Thursday has prompted President Barack Obama to rethink whether to hold a summit in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

Snowden’s asylum in Russia also had put into doubt this week’s “two-plus-two” talks between the Russian and U.S. officials.

The United States appears to be trying to avoid derailing ties with its former Cold War rival by proceeding with some high-level talks with Russia while still leaving Obama’s participation in the summit in doubt.

Worsened ties between the United States and Russia could make it even more difficult for the two nations to arrange any kind of political solution in Syria, for example.

Moscow has supported President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war even as Obama has led international calls for him to step aside. Psaki said Syria would be part of the conversation.