MOSCOW: The Kremlin expressed disappointment Friday over US President Barack Obama's decision to cancel a trip to Asia that could have seen him discuss the Syria crisis with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"We are disappointed that there will be no meeting," Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
"There is a great need in our bilateral relations for a dialogue at the highest level," Peskov said.
The two sides "have a wealth of issues on their agenda, including and foremost international issues headed by Syria."
Obama scrapped trips to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali on Monday and the subsequent East Asia summit in Brunei because of the federal budget crisis gripping the United States.
Putin's foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov had said Thursday that the two presidents could meet on the sidelines of the Bali summit to discuss issues including the Syria crisis.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to represent Washington at both events.
Peskov said that Putin himself was unlikely to meet Kerry in Bali but that the top Washington diplomat could have talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Russia and the United States struck a deal last month to disarm the Syrian regime of its chemical weapons following an August 21 nerve agent attack near Damascus that Washington believes claimed more than 1,400 lives.
The disarmament plan was originally hatched as part of Russia's efforts to shield Syrian President al-Bashar Assad's regime from US-led military strikes that Obama threatened after the incident.
Russia argues that rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin were fired by Syrian rebels who were trying to draw Western and Arab governments to their side in a conflict that has killed more than 115,000 people.
An unnamed Russian diplomat told the Interfax news agency Friday that Moscow now suspects that the chemical attack was carried out by Saudi-backed rebels called Liwa al-Islam.
The rebel group is one of the largest Islamic factions fighting Assad's forces in Syria and has a presence near Damascus.
The Russian diplomat said "a variety" of sources suggested that the chemical attack "was the work of a special group dispatched by the Saudis from Jordan that was acting under a wing of Liwa al-Islam."
World powers have also tentatively agreed to schedule the first direct negotiations between Assad's regime and the rebels in Geneva in mid-November.
The so-called Geneva 2 talks follow a failed round of negotiations between world powers over the crisis in the same city in June 2012.