Russia proposes joint airstrikes on Syria with US-led coalition from May 25

Russian fighter jets fly in formation after returning from Syria, before landing at an airbase in southern Russia, on March 16, 2016.
Russian fighter jets fly in formation after returning from Syria, before landing at an airbase in southern Russia, on March 16, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has proposed to the United States-led coalition that they stage joint airstrikes on Syrian rebels including Nusra Front who are not observing the ceasefire, starting on May 25, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday (May 20).

Such action would be coordinated with the Syrian government, he told a Defence Ministry meeting broadcast on state television, adding that Moscow reserved the right to stage strikes unilaterally.

Washington has consistently refused to join any operation that is coordinated with the Syrian government, as has been the case with Russia's campaign of airstrikes that began in September last year.

Mr Shoigu said joint airstrikes should also target convoys carrying weapons and ammunition crossing into Syria from Turkey.

While Russia supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the United States - along with its allies in the West and the Gulf - back rebels trying to overthrow him.

However, both sides oppose the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which was not included in a ceasefire deal that has failed to prevent widespread violence.

Mr Shoigu said the proposed joint airstrikes would help the stalled peace process. "We believe the adoption of these measures will allow a transition to a peaceful process to be achieved in the entire territory of Syria," he said. "Of course, these measures have been coordinated with the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic."

Mr Shoigu said discussions with US military experts based in Jordan and other counterparts in Geneva had begun on Thursday.

But he added: "We reserve the right to start from May 25 unilateral strikes on units of international terrorist groups and illegal armed groups which have not joined the ceasefire."