U.S. insists no cooperation with Russia on Syria

Carter said U.S. will not cooperate with Russia air strike as long as Moscow stops its ‘mistaken strategy’ in Syria

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The United States is not cooperating with Russia over Moscow’s air strikes in Syria beyond basic safety precautions, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter insisted Wednesday, describing Russia’s action there as fundamentally mistaken.

“I have said before that we believed that Russia has the wrong strategy -- they continue to hit targets that are not ISIL. We believe this is a fundamental mistake,” Carter told a press conference in Rome, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group by an alternative name.

“Despite what the Russians say we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia so long as they continue to pursue a mistaken strategy and hit these targets.”

Carter’s comments came after Russia’s defence ministry claimed it was considering proposals from the U.S. to coordinate operations against ISIS.

“On the whole, these proposals could be put in place,” spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. The spokesman said technical details were being discussed by Russian and Pentagon officials on Wednesday.

Both U.S. and Russian officials have confirmed holding discussions on how to avoid possible accidents with their respective warplanes in action over Syria at the same time.

“What we will do is continue basic, technical discussions on the professional safety procedures for our pilots flying above Syria,” Carter added.

“That’s it. We will keep the channel open because it’s a matter of safety for our pilots.”

More than 90% of Russian strikes not targeting ISIS

In the same day, the State Department said a large majority of Russia’s military strikes in Syria have not been aimed at ISIS or jihadists tied to Al-Qaeda, and have instead targeted the moderate Syrian opposition.

“Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby, using another acronym for ISIS.

“They’ve been largely against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don't want to see the Assad regime stay in power.”

It was the first time that American authorities have offered any specific figures about the impact of Russian air strikes in the war-torn country.

The accusation came as Moscow -- which says it is going after “terrorist groups,” including ISIS -- ramped up its bombardments in Syria.

Washington, which supports the moderate Syrian opposition, has consistently said that the Russian action will only add more fuel to the fire and will benefit the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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