Will US and Russia work together to end war in Syria?
MOSCOW // The American secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Thursday amid speculation that the US and Russia were going to agree to work together to end the war in Syria.
According to the proposal, which was leaked to the The Washington Post ahead of Mr Kerry’s trip to Moscow, the US and Russia would conduct joint military operations against ISIL and the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, known as Al Nusra Front, and share intelligence.
Significantly Mr Kerry did not deny the idea and his office said there could be no comment until after his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
But the proposal has already been welcomed by US allies including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said he would welcome US-Russian cooperation but added that any military collaboration must lead to a political solution and to the eventual change of regime in Syria.
“With regards to the Russian-American cooperation in the fight against terrorism: this is something we had asked for,” Mr Al Jubeir told reporters following meetings at the United Nations. He said Syria must move forward on a path towards political transition that provides for an interim governing council with full power to manage state affairs “and lead to a new Syria without Bashar Al Assad”.
The Washington Post reported that Kerry will propose setting up a joint command and control centre to direct air strikes against ISIL and other extremist groups during his talks with Mr Putin.
Currently, Russian forces in Syria are operating in support of Mr Al Assad’s regime against a variety of rebel factions while a US-led coalition focuses its fire on ISIL.
In the alleged draft proposal from the US, American and Russian commanders would set up a joint command and control centre in Jordan to direct intensified air strikes against the jihadist groups.
Any deal between the great power rivals would be controversial, since for many – including critics of US president Barack Obama in Washington – it would amount to a tacit acceptance of Mr Putin’s efforts to shore up Mr Al Assad’s regime.
During his two-day stay in Moscow, Mr Kerry will also try to revive a shattered ceasefire and push Putin on a stalled peace process as little progress has been made towards resuming any talks on Syria.
Operations by both the US coalition and Russia have seen ISIL lose territory recently and Moscow said on Thursday it had carried out more than 50 strikes against the extremists near the Syrian city of Palmyra over the past three days.
On Thursday alone, six Tupolev bombers flew out of an airbase in Russia and conducted strikes east of Palmyra, near the cities of Arak and Sukhna, as well as in the Homs region.
Despite repeated announcements of ceasefires, Syrian government forces have continued offensives on a range of fronts, with fighting especially heavy around second city Aleppo in recent weeks.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: July 14, 2016 04:00 AM