JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States is not looking for a confrontation with Russia, where admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden is believed to be hiding.
Speaking at a news conference in Saudi Arabia, Kerry said it’s true that the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia but called on Moscow to comply with common law practices between countries where fugitives are concerned.
“There are standards of behavior between sovereign nations. There is common law,” Kerry said. “There is respect for rule of law and we would simply call on our friends in Russia to respect the fact that a partner nation — a co-member of the permanent five of the United Nations — has made a normal request under legal systems.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, earlier Tuesday bluntly rejected U.S. demands for Snowden, saying the American hadn’t crossed the Russian border.
Lavrov insisted that Russia had nothing to do with him or his travel plans.
Washington does not need a fight with Moscow at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained over Syria. Kerry and Lavrov are to meet next week at a Southeast Asia security conference in Brunei.
Kerry, however, said the U.S. continues to hope that if Snowden is in Russia, that Moscow would turn him over to American authorities. He noted that in the past two years, the U.S. transferred seven people to Russia at Moscow’s request. Kerry said the U.S. did so “without any clamor, without any rancor, without any arguments.”
Kerry said, “I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness. We would hope that Russia would not side with someone who is a fugitive’ from justice.”
“They certainly can allow him to be subject to the laws and our constitution of which he is a citizen of, and that’s what we call on him to do. We’re not looking for a confrontation,” Kerry said. “We are not ordering anybody.”
“We don’t need to raise the level of confrontation over something that’s frankly as basic and normal as this,” he said.
Snowden is a former CIA employee who later was hired as a contractor for the NSA. In that job, he gained access to documents that he gave to newspapers the Guardian and The Washington Post to expose what he contends are privacy violations by an authoritarian government.