Ecuador revokes safe passage travel documents its diplomats had issued to Mr. Snowden after the U.S. cancelled his passport.
Now that Ecuador appears to have backed away from granting asylum to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, all eyes are on Moscow, where the former CIA analyst is stranded.
After having a “cordial” telephone conversation with U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, Ecuador President Rafael Correa said on Saturday he had revoked the safe passage travel documents Ecuador diplomats had issued to Mr. Snowden after the U.S. cancelled his passport.
Mr. Biden had communicated a “very courteous request” to refuse asylum for Mr. Snowden, Mr. Correa said, and Quito would seek the opinion of Washington when Mr. Snowden arrives in Ecuador — “If he arrives.”
Earlier Mr. Correa denied Ecuador had received Mr. Snowden’s formal request of asylum, explaining that the man first would have to reach Ecuador territory or its embassy.
The Ecuador leader put the ball in Moscow’s court, saying that “the solution of Snowden's destination is in the hands of Russian authorities.”
The Kremlin made it clear on Sunday it saw Mr. Snowden as a headache and would like to shake off his problem.
President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary said Mr. Snowden’s fate was not on the Kremlin’s agenda.
Recalling Mr. Putin’s statement that Mr. Snowden was a free person and “the sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and Russia,” press secretary Dmitry Peskov clarified Moscow’s position:
“The President pointed out that he is not tackling this issue and prefers appropriate services to deal with it. Therefore, this subject matter is not on the Kremlin agenda.”
However, Mr. Snowden, stuck at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport since last Sunday without valid travel documents, has now become the Kremlin’s problem.
If no other country comes forward to offer Mr. Snowden asylum, Mr. Putin will face a dilemma, to let him stay in Russia and spoil relations with Washington or to hand him over to U.S. authorities.
Mr. Putin has of course drummed up anti-American rhetoric to consolidate his conservative core electorate in the face of large-scale protests against his return to the presidency more than a year ago, but has also been trying to build a constructive relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama.
At the same time, if Mr. Putin extradites Mr Snowden he may undermine his reputation as a leader who can stand up to America.
A senior Russian legislator on Sunday said it would be wrong for Russia to expel Mr. Snowden to the U.S.
“It’s not a matter of [Mr. Snowden’s] usefulness [to Russia] — it’s a matter of principle,” Alexei Pushkov, head of international relations committee in the State Duma, tweeted. “Handing over a political refugee is morally impermissible.”
Mr. Putin earlier said Russia cannot give Mr. Snowden to Americans because the two countries have no extradition treaty.
The big question is will Moscow extradite Mr. Snowden if Washington signs such a treaty with it?