The day before President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement indicating that the United States is prepared to discuss joint operations with Russia in the embattled state of Syria.
Those joint operations, Tillerson explained, could include adherence to no-fly zones, cease-fire observers, and coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need within the Syrian borders.
Syria is currently the site of intense fighting between members of the Islamist Extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) and a varied group of fighters that claim different allegiances and who receive support from different foreign governments. The United States, Turkey, Iran, and Russia are among the nation’s lending support to different groups in their fight against ISIS; many of said groups are embroiled in their own conflicts with one another.
In recent weeks, tensions between these groups have led the United States to shooting down two Iranian drones and a Syrian Su-22 as they engaged U.S. backed forces on the ground. The U.S. has also provided air support to destroy equipment and Syrian fighters advancing on coalition positions.
“We call upon all parties, including the Syrian government and its allies, Syrian opposition forces, and Coalition forces carrying out the battle to defeat ISIS, to avoid conflict with one another and adhere to agreed geographical boundaries for military de-confliction and protocols for de-escalation.” Tillerson said in his statement.
With the ground laid for an end of hostility between foreign backed groups in Syria, Tillerson went on to acknowledge that the United States and Russia are currently amidst a period of high tensions, but getting past them could result in a safer Syria for the people who live there.
“The United States and Russia certainly have unresolved differences on a number of issues, but we have the potential to appropriately coordinate in Syria in order to produce stability and serve our mutual security interests.” Tillerson said before claiming that Russia has a responsibility to ensure the needs of the Syrian people are met, as a “guarantor of the Assad regime.”
“Russia also has an obligation to prevent any further use of chemical weapons of any kind by the Assad regime.” He added.
With the grounds for cooperation set by Tillerson, he went on to congratulate both nations on their ability to coordinate thus far in the conflict, preventing any accidents from occurring between American and Russian forces, and quickly resolving incidents that have occurred.
“The United States is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance. If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria’s political future.” He said.
ISIS’ defacto capital city is in Raqqa, Syria, where the battle to retake the area is already underway. ISIS has also lost the majority of their territory in the Iraqi city of Mosul, with Iraqi officials declaring victory with only a few pockets of resistance remaining.
“With the liberation of Raqqa now underway,” Tillerson said, “ISIS has been badly wounded, and it could be on the brink of complete defeat in Syria if all parties focus on this objective. In order to complete the mission, the international community, and especially Russia, must remove obstacles to the defeat of ISIS and help provide stability that prevents ISIS from rising anew from the ashes of their failed and fraudulent caliphate.”
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense
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