Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is considering Russia’s offer of military-to-military talks on the war in Syria, as Moscow bolsters its military presence there.
Kerry, who held talks this week by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Wednesday he wants a “complete and clear understanding” of what Russia’s intentions are.
“You have a conversation in order to do that,” Kerry said. “It is vital to avoid misunderstandings, miscalculations [and] not to put ourselves in a predicament where we are supposing something, and the supposition is wrong.”
The top U.S. diplomat suggested he favors the idea and the White House, the State Department and U.S. defense officials are considering it to get a direct explanation about Russian intentions in Syria following its recent military buildup there.
Kerry said he warned Lavrov about Moscow’s increased involvement in Syria.
“I made clear that Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad risks escalating the conflict and undermining our shared goal of fighting extremism,” said Kerry.
“I made clear that Russia’s continued support for Assad risks escalating the conflict and undermining our shared goal of fighting extremism,” Kerry said.
Russia has sent tanks, military advisers, technicians and security guards to Syria, apparently to create an air base near the coastal town of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports that when asked if Russia has plans to build an air base in Syria, senior Russian military official Nikolai Bogdanovsky said there are no such plans right now. He added, though, that “anything is possible.”
Russia is a longtime Assad ally, but says its focus in Syria is defeating Islamic State.