Russia proposes joint Syria airstrikes with US-led coalition from May 25
REUTERS photoRussia has proposed to the U.S.-led coalition that they stage joint airstrikes on Syrian rebels, including the al-Nusra Front, that are not observing the ceasefire, starting on May 25, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said.
Such action would be coordinated with the Syrian government, Shoigu told a Defence Ministry meeting broadcast on state television on May 20, adding that Moscow reserved the right to stage strikes unilaterally.
Washington has consistently refused to join any operation that is coordinated with the Syrian government, as has been the case with Russia’s campaign of airstrikes that began in September last year.
But Shoigu suggested that joint airstrikes should also target convoys which he alleged that were carrying weapons and ammunition crossing into Syria from Turkey.
Russia has repeatedly accused Ankara of helping the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) smuggle oil via its Syrian border, while Turkey categorically rejects the claims.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also previously condemned the accusations, which he described as “despicable.”
While Russia supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the United States - along with its allies in the West and the Gulf - back rebels trying to overthrow him.
However, both sides oppose the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which was not included in a ceasefire deal which has failed to prevent widespread violence.
Shoigu said the proposed joint airstrikes would help the stalled peace process.
“We believe the adoption of these measures will allow a transition to a peaceful process to be achieved in the entire territory of Syria. Of course, these measures have been coordinated with the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.
Shoigu added that discussions with U.S. military experts based in Jordan and other counterparts in Geneva had begun on May 19.
“We reserve the right to start from May 25 unilateral strikes on units of international terrorist groups and illegal armed groups which have not joined the ceasefire,” he stated.
President Vladimir Putin in March announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, saying Moscow’s task had been “on the whole” completed.