As the Syrian Air Force carried out a string of deadly air raids against extremist Islamist positions in Palmyra and Idlib this weekend, US and Russian military officials discussed the crisis there for the first time in more than a year.
During a nearly hour-long phone call, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu the Syria crisis and Moscow’s recent deployment of military hardware and personnel to aid the government of Bashar Al Assad defeat such extremist groups as Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
“The secretary and the minister talked about areas where the United States and Russia’s perspectives overlap and areas of divergence,” a US Department of Defense statement said about the phone call.
“They agreed to further discuss mechanisms for deconfliction in Syria and the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) campaign. The secretary emphasized the importance of pursuing such consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria,” the statement continued.
The phone call marks a move away from Washington’s previous objections to Russia increasing its military presence in Syria and could signal the beginning of world power consensus on how to combat ISIL and other extremist groups, as well as stabilize the Middle East.
On Friday, media reports indicated that advanced Russian fighter jets had arrived in Syria in what some say will be a forward tactical air base for Moscow.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his government will continue to provide Syria “all necessary military assistance” and called on other countries to join in the effort to destroy extremist forces and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
“If Russia hadn’t been supporting Syria, the situation there would have been worse than in Libya, and we would have seen more refugees,” he told reporters in Moscow this week.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says it is not protecting Al Assad, as some Western pundits have claimed, but helping to avert yet another catastrophe in the Middle East.
Last week, South African President Jacob Zuma said that “To achieve lasting peace in Syria, the international community must reject all calls for regime change in that country”.
“The international community must not support external military interference or any action in Syria that is not in line with the Charter of the United Nations,” he said at an international relations security briefing in Pretoria, South Africa.
Meanwhile, reports emerged that dozens of Syrian soldiers were executed by the extremist Nusra Front in a captured air base in Abu Al Duhur, Syria.
The Pentagon also announced that it had carried out dozens of air raids against ISIL positions in several towns in Iraq and Syria.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies