Putin Confirms Military Involvement in Syria: Daily Telegraph

Putin Confirms Military Involvement in Syria: Daily Telegraph
Sat Sep 5, 2015 18:05:38

Russian president talks of desire for "international coalition" to fight terrorism and extremism and does not rule out possibility of direct military intervention in Syria, Telegraph reports.

Russia is providing “serious” training and logistical support to the Syrian army, Vladimir Putin has said, in the first public confirmation of the depth of Russia’s involvement in Syria's war.

Commenting on reports that Russian combat troops have been deployed to Syria, the Russian president said discussion of direct military intervention is “so far premature,” but did not rule out that such a step could be taken in future.

“To say we're ready to do this today - so far it's premature to talk about this. But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons,” the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying when asked about Russian intervention in Syria during an economic forum in Vladivostok.

"We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism," Mr Putin said.

"To this end, we hold consultations with our American partners - I have personally spoken on the issue with US President Obama."

Last week Syrian state television released images showing an advanced Russian-built armoured personnel carrier, the BTR-82a, in combat. Videos have also appeared in which troops engaged in combat appear to shout instructions to one another in Russian.

The reports of increased support follow a recent diplomatic offensive in which Russia has attempted to persuade western and Arab governments, as well as members of the Syrian opposition, that Mr Assad should be part of a national unity government and an international alliance to fight ISIS.

Mr Putin said on Friday that Mr Assad had agreed to such a deal, “right up to the point of holding early parliament elections and establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition and engaging them in governing".

Khaled Khoja, the chairman of Syria's opposition National Coalition, said after a recent meeting with Russian officials in Moscow that there was no question of sharing power with Mr Assad.

Another option debated in foreign policy circles would involve Mr Assad stepping down to be replaced by a mutually acceptable successor.

Russia is said to oppose this view, believing that removal of Assad would lead to the complete collapse of Syria as a state.

The Pentagon said on Friday that it had seen reports of Russia deploying troops and aircraft in Syria, and was "monitoring the situation closely".

As for the possibility of Russia joining the coalition against ISIL, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the US would "welcome the opportunities for others to join the fight".

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