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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S.: No Snub Intended on Mideast

A senior U.S. official said Wednesday no snub had been intended when Russia was left out of the Middle East crisis summit in Egypt this week, and praised Moscow for its diplomatic efforts in the region.

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering spearheaded a U.S. diplomatic drive, along with Undersecretary John Holum who was in Moscow for talks on nuclear nonproliferation and arms cuts.

Russia had pressed for an invitation to the two-day summit that ended Tuesday when U.S. President Bill Clinton announced an agreement for both Israelis and Palestinians to call for an end to almost three weeks of violence.

"The parties at Sharm el-Sheikh believed that they should have the minimum number of participants consistent with their hope to find an agreement to stop the violence," Pickering told a news conference.

"The United States made it clear that it would have welcomed Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had the parties, the others, been able to arrange for him to be there," he said.

Russia is formally a co-sponsor with the United States of Middle East peace talks and political analysts in Moscow had interpreted its exclusion from the summit as a humiliation.

Ivanov spent much of last week meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as officials in Syria and Lebanon, diplomacy that Pickering said had had a "happy and salutary effect."

Clinton planned to phone President Vladimir Putin later Wednesday to discuss joint efforts in the Middle East, he said. "There are difficulties enough to go around in the Middle East for us all to work hard," he said.

Pickering’s main brief was to discuss Afghanistan with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, and he said both countries shared an "abhorrence" of the ruling Taliban movement’s support for what he called terrorism.

"We are here in principle to work together to find ways to stem the threat to the international community from the Taliban’s support for terrorist activities and narcotics production," he said.

The United States wants the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man suspected of masterminding bombs at U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.

Pickering said the United States believed tens of thousands of people were trained in "terrorist" training camps in Afghanistan.

Russia has accused the Taliban of training rebels fighting for independence from Moscow in Chechnya and is concerned about any spillover in fighting in Afghanistan into former Soviet states in Central Asia.

Pickering said he had discussed passing stricter sanctions against the Taliban in the United Nations Security Council and strengthening existing ones, until the Taliban improves its record on human rights, the drug trade and political violence.

Holum held talks on arms with Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. Russia said it had stuck to its proposal of quick cuts to expensively maintained nuclear arsenals, and also made clear it wanted to maintain the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Washington wants to amend the ABM Treaty so that it could deploy a national anti-missile shield to protect it from what it has called "rogue states" like North Korea, a move resisted by Moscow, which sees ABM as the keystone of arms agreements.

The Foreign Ministry said Mamedov and Holum had discussed options for a so-called theater defense, placing anti-missile systems near the country from where the attack was feared rather than one large shield over the United States.