Washington: The US on Thursday asked Russia to expel Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US on charges of espionage and leaking classified documents, and warned Ecuador that giving him asylum would be detrimental to the bilateral relationship.
"We agree with (the Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin that we don`t want this issue to negatively impact our relations, and we`re simply asking Russia to build on our cooperative history of working together on law enforcement matters and to go ahead and expel Mr Snowden," State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
Snowden, who leaked the secretive phone and Internet surveillance programme, is currently stranded in the transit area of the Moscow airport.
The United States has withdrawn his passport. Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, which has said that it would consider his application as a matter of routine.
"We`ve had our differences with Ecuador, but we`ve also found ways to cooperate. So we`re making the same case that this is an individual who has been charged with three serious felonies, and he should be returned to the United States and stand trial. So that`s the point we`re making there," he said.
Granting asylum to Snowden would not be a good thing, he said.
"What would not be a good thing is them granting Mr Snowden asylum. That would have grave difficulties for our bilateral relationship. That would cause there to be great difficulties in our bilateral relationship. So taking the lens back a little bit, if they take that step, that would have very negative repercussions," Ventrell said.
Responding to a question, Ventrell said the US has not submitted an extradition request to Russia in the absence of a extradition treaty with between the two countries.
"I mean, there is not an extradition treaty. We`re making clear through bilateral channels our strong desire to have him returned to the United States, and the Russians are very clear about how we feel about Mr Snowden," he said. The US official continued to reiterate that authorities on Hong Kong did not provide assistance in nabbing Snowden.
"The Hong Kong authorities knew who Mr Snowden was, they knew he was a wanted fugitive, and they intentionally let him go. So again, while I can`t comment on this individual`s passport, the governor of Hong Kong made a calculated decision to let Snowden go," he alleged.
"While the Privacy Act prohibits me from talking about Mr Snowden`s passport specifically, I can say that the Hong Kong authorities were well aware of our interest in Mr Snowden and had plenty of time to prohibit his travel, as appropriate," he said.
This episode, he said, will have a negative impact on relationship with Hong Kong.
"We are just not buying that this was some sort of technical immigration decision. So it is going to have a negative impact, and you know, when you have the Chinese and the Hong Kong authorities wanting to build mutual trust in the relationship, this is a serious setback," Ventrell said.
Ventrell denied the allegations from the authorities in Hong Kong that the US did not provide enough and appropriate documentation to arrest or extradite Snowden under the extradition treaty between the two countries.
"Just to be clear what the treaty requires between the Hong Kong authorities and the United States, the treaty requires, A, a description of the person; B, an indication that a surrender request will follow; C, a statement of the applicable crimes and punishments; and D, a description of the facts. All of that was provided to Hong Kong, and they knew exactly who he was," he said.