Russia could co-operate with the US to fight Isis in Syria because 'there is no alternative'

Russia's foreign ministry said it would consider working with the American-led coalition as long as its interests were 'taken into consideration'

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Thursday 24 September 2015 14:32
Vladimir Putin's alliance with Bashar al-Assad has previously been an obstacle to military co-operation
Vladimir Putin's alliance with Bashar al-Assad has previously been an obstacle to military co-operation

The Russian government has said it will consider working with the US to fight Isis in Syria after transferring almost 30 fighter jets to the war-torn country.

Ilya Rogachev, the director of the foreign ministry’s “department on issues of new challenges and threats” told the RIA Novosti news agency that it was up to America to start a dialogue.

“The understanding of no other alternative to co-operate in this ‘hot issue’ is obviously starting to sink in,” he said.

“We told them that everything is in their hands. If you want to contact us, then we haven't closed the door of dialogue, but expect fair cooperation on a ‘two-way street’ principle, co-operation that would take our interests into consideration as well.”

This September 2015 satellite image shows Russian transport aircraft, helicopters, tanks, trucks and armed personnel carriers at an air base in Latakia province, Syria

The “interests” were not specified but Russia’s support for the Syrian regime has so far been a source of deep discord on the UN Security Council.

Its repeated vetoes, mainly on intervention in Syria or calling for investigations into alleged atrocities committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, have led to criticism that the Kremlin is undermining the council.

Diplomatic relations with the US and Europe have been further damaged by the Ukrainian conflict and annexation of Crimea, but concern over the growing threat posed by Isis reopened some defence contracts earlier this month.

Newly-arrived Russian warplanes bombarded Isis militants at a besieged Kweris air base, monitors said today.

“It is unknown whether the pilots of the warplanes which arrived from Russia are Russian or Syrian,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air strikes, which began earlier this week, were accompanied by ground attacks near the base, in Aleppo province, where government troops have long been surrounded by Isis militants.

US officials say Russian military aid to the Assad regime has included fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and ground forces.

Several Western countries initially reacted with alarm to Moscow's increased military support for President Assad, who is opposed on the grounds of his human rights record, although criticism has been less vocal since Isis overran vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Russia has argued that the Syrian regime should be part of international efforts to fight Isis, while the US, Britain and allies believe he is part of the problem.

Vladimir Putin is expected to call for stronger action against the so-called Islamic State in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday.

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