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U.S. Disregards Russian Proposal on Joint Strikes in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting on Russian air force’s activity in Syria at the national defense control center in Moscow, Russia./ REUTERS

Russia recently proposed to the U.S.-led coalition to launch joint air strikes on Syrian rebels, including the militant group Al-Nusra Front. However, the U.S responded coolly to the proposal on Friday.

The campaign supposedly would kick off as of May 25 and be coordinated with the Syrian regime, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a Defense Ministry meeting broadcast on state television.

He added that Moscow has reserved the right to stage unilateral strikes.

The joint air strikes would allegedly target convoys carrying weapons and ammunition crossing into Syria from Turkey, said Shoigu.

“We believe the adoption of these measures will allow a transition to a peaceful process to be achieved in the entire territory of Syria,” he said. “Of course, these measures have been coordinated with the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Discussions with U.S. military experts based in Jordan and other correspondents in Geneva had begun on Thursday, Shoigu added.

Nevertheless it was made clear that the United States had little interest in the proposal, noting that Russia had advocated similar proposals in the past. Not to mention that Washington had incessantly stressed on Moscow using its influence over the Assad regime to inhibit any unilateral strikes.

The U.S. had always stepped aside and refused to join forces with Russia in Syria. Moreover, it accused Moscow of solo action set out to prop up Assad’s stay in power. Meanwhile, Washington had clearly called on Assad to step down.

U.S. and Russian militaries have close to none limited communication on Syria, which is only an exception to limited contacts that aim at avoiding an accidental clash as they carry out bombing campaigns. The limits on communication also ensure the safeguard of the small numbers of U.S. forces operating on Syrian ground from Russian airstrikes.

“There is no agreement to conduct joint air strikes with the Russians in Syria,” said U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby. He added that the U.S. believes that Assad’s regime is responsible for most of the violations against ceasefire, which began on Feb. 27.

“We look to Russia to end such (government) violations, which includes strikes that have hit civilians and civilian facilities,” said Kirby.

While Russia supports Assad’s regime, the U.S. and its allies support the Syrian Opposition trying to overthrow him.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the U.S. aim remains for Russia to convince Assad to abide by the cessation of hostilities in Syria. He said this was not the first time Russia had made such a proposal.

“You’ve seen Russia show an eagerness to cooperate with us militarily. This is not something that’s new,” Schultz said.

“Don’t see it happening,” another U.S. official said, adding the U.S. military “will ensure safety of flight but nothing else.”

“Putin has long had a strategy regarding Syria of trying to share the geopolitical stage with the United States and its allies, and his latest proposal appears to reflect that goal,” a western official from the coalition said.