Russia supporting & coordinating Syrian Kurdish-led anti-ISIS battle east of Euphrates – MoD

Russian jets are helping the Syrian Kurds battle remnants of Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) forces east of the Euphrates River, so that local militias and ethnic groups can restore control of the region and launch a stable political dialogue with Damascus.

In an effort to preserve the fragile social fabric of the region, and to ensure the territorial integrity of Syria, a Russian military delegation met with at least 23 envoys representing the interests of different ethnic groups living to the east of the Euphrates River.

The meeting, held in a town of Al-Salihiyah, Deir ez-Zor Governorate on Sunday, also included the officials of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG). The Kurds have recently been abandoned by Washington, despite the group’s indispensable support for the American-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

As fighting against Islamic State terrorists enters its final chapter, the Russian Air Force is working with all armed formations on the ground, trying to deal the final blow to the jihadists in Syria. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian fighters carried out 672 sorties and bombed over 1,450 targets to support the “offensive by the militias of eastern Euphrates tribes and Kurdish militias.”

The ground offensive by the militias is being coordinated from the Russian Air Force base in Khmeimim, a representative of the Russian center for Syrian Reconciliation, Major General Yevgeniy Poplavskiy, noted on Monday.

“A joint operative staff has been created in the town of Es-Salhiya to provide direct control and organize the cooperation with the popular militia units. Apart from Russian advisors, representatives of the eastern Euphrates tribes are taken part in it,” Poplavskiy said, noting that in the “coming days” the entire territory east of Euphrates River will be free from terrorists.

Mahmoud Nuri, a representative of the Kurdish YPG, stated that the militia “battled ISIS under Russian command very effectively.” Kurdish forces have also expressed readiness to ensure the safety of the Russian military specialists operating on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

Moscow hopes that once the territory is liberated people will go back to peaceful coexistence, which is why Russia is trying to facilitate the all-inclusive dialogue of different ethnic groups in the region. Russia is assisting the local tribal leaders in the formation of the Committee for the Management of the Eastern Territories of the Deir ez-Zor Province so they can form a local government that would be responsible for maintaining social order and distributing humanitarian aid. The Committee will also be tasked with demining and restoration of infrastructure, as well as guaranteeing of a safe return to refugees.

The Committee made clear that it will not challenge Damascus for the control of the territory as it considered the lands under its control as an “integral part” of Syria. On Sunday, the Committee elected Ghassan Al-Yousef to serve as the head of the organization, who immediately expressed his gratitude to Russian pilots in helping to eradicate IS in Syria.

Washington will stop providing weapons to the Syrian Kurdish militias, US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced over the weekend, as Pentagon was “changing the composition” of its assets in Syria with the military operations there entering their final stages.

“The YPG is armed and as the coalition stops operations then obviously you don’t need that, you need security, you need police forces, that is local forces, that is people who make certain that ISIS doesn’t come back,” Mattis said.