Russia suggests cooperating to target rebel groups excluded from ceasefire, including Jabhat al-Nusra
Russia has proposed to the United States that the two nations coordinate airstrikes against Jabhat al-Nusra and other armed groups that do not support the cessation of hostilities regime, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
“On May 25, [we propose the U.S.-led coalition] to start joint actions by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the aviation of the U.S.-led coalition to plan and carry out strikes on units of Jabhat al-Nusra and the illegal armed groups that have not upheld the cessation of hostilities regime,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a Defence Ministry meeting, which was broadcast on Russian state television on Friday.
Joint Russian-US airstrikes could also target the movement of weapons and ammunition crossing into Syria from Turkey, Shoigu said.
He also proposed that joint strikes be made against “convoys containing weapons and ammunition, armed units that illegally cross the Syrian-Turkish border.”
The Pentagon, however, rejected the Russian proposal to launch joint air strikes.
”There is no agreement to conduct joint air strikes with the Russians in Syria. What we are discussing with our Russian counterparts … are proposals for a sustainable mechanism to better monitor and enforce the cessation of hostilities (COH),” US State Department spokesman John Kirby clarified in a statement after Russia they stage joint air strikes on Syrian rebels, including militant Islamist group Nusra Front, who violate the truce.
US rejects Russia proposal for joint Syria air strikes
The Pentagon decline the Russian proposal to launch joint air strikes against jihadists from next week in Syria, where they have been conducting separate bombing campaigns.
“We do not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters on Friday.
However, the United States will continue to use the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Russia on flight safety during combat missions over Syria that has proven to be effective, US Department of Defense spokesman Matthew Allen said.
“Outside of the MOU, we have shared with the Russians rough geographic areas where coalition forces may be operating, and have advised them to remain clear of these areas. To date, they have honored this,” Allen stated.
Russia and US stance on Syria
Russia is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The United States, however, supports rebel groups trying to oust Assad.
Both nations oppose Jabhat al-Nusra, which has ties to al Qaeda and is not included in the cessation of hostilities.
The US, Russia and other military counterparts involved in the conflict in Syria are meeting in Geneva. The US and Russia, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), are leading efforts for a renewed ceasefire in Syria.