Putin: Free Syrian Army shares intel on ISIS targets, US reluctant to cooperate

Russian President Vladimir Putin © Michael Klimentyev
Russia has been cooperating with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which shared their intelligence on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) positions targeted by Russian airstrikes, said President Vladimir Putin in an interview on Friday.

In an interview with the Interfax and Anadolu news agencies published on Friday, Putin said Russia has been considering any “reliable” information on the terrorists’ location in Syria.

“We have even worked together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” he said. “Russian aviation has conducted several strikes on targets identified by the FSA. We excluded areas, which had been indicated by FSA commanders as being under their control.”

He stressed this “proves once again that we are not bombing the so-called moderate opposition or the civilian population.”

'Russia repeatedly calculated potential risks & consequences of Syria op'

Putin said all “potential risks and consequences” of  Russia’s airstrikes in Syria have been “carefully calculated many times” and “all the resources needed for the operation, both financial and technological, have been allocated in advance.”

The Russian president also said the duration of Russia’s airstrikes in the Arab republic will depend on the Syrian Army’s offensive against terrorists.

READ MORE: Syrian opposition provided intel to target terrorists around besieged key airbase - Russia

“A clear objective is set before the Russian forces – they should provide air support for the Syrian Army’s offensive against the terrorists, and that is why the duration of stay of our military will be determined solely depending on the time this objective is achieved,” he said.

'US lukewarm about Russia’s cooperation proposals'

He expressed Russia’s readiness to cooperate with the US-led coalition’s military efforts in Syria, despite Washington bypassing a UN Security Council resolution that authorizes military action. The US also received no request from the official Syrian government to start the strikes.

“We are ready to cooperate with Washington despite the fact that the US operations in Syria are in violation of international law,” Putin said.

The Kremlin officially informed the US and NATO of the start of military actions in “reasonable time” beforehand, he said.

“We hoped at least for the natural close military and expert coordination in such cases with the US led 'Global Coalition to Counter ISIL' [IS, former ISIS], even taking into account all the fundamental differences between the Russian and US approaches to the Syrian crisis,” he said.

Despite the common threat posed by terrorists and extremist groups in the region, the “reaction of the US and Western partners was quite restrained,” Putin said.

We still have not managed to go beyond the joint approval of the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the Course of Operations in Syria, and even then with a reservation by the US that by no means such interaction should be regarded as the normalization of military contacts, which were frozen on the US initiative.”

The cooperation deal reached on October 20 is aimed at preventing incidents and providing for the smooth operation of the two nations' aircraft, and for mutual aid in critical situations.

READ MORE: ‘US not interested in defeating ISIS’

However, Washington has been “reluctant” to respond to Moscow’s proposal to sign an additional agreement regarding the rescue of military aircraft crews, he added. This comes despite “the fact that at the time when the US operation in Afghanistan started, we immediately responded to their similar request."

“Neither have we received any response to our request to provide Russia with relevant US intelligence data for planning operations of our Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, although we have repeatedly asked the US for such information,” Putin concluded.

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