As Russia began striking Homs, Syria — not an area of ISIS control — Secretary of State John Kerry appeared with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at the United Nations today to reiterate “concerns” about Moscow plunging into the conflict at the behest of ally Bashar Assad.
Kerry said he voiced at the UN Security Council meeting, led by Russia today, “concerns that we have obviously about the nature of the targets, the type of targets, and the need for clarity with respect to them.”
“And it is one thing obviously to be targeting ISIL. We’re concerned, obviously, that is not what is happening,” he said, adding the U.S. and Russia agreed to “a military-to-military de-confliction discussion, meeting, conference, whichever – whatever can be done as soon as possible, because we agree on the urgency of that de-confliction.”
“…The foreign minister and I agreed that there is, even as we don’t have yet a resolution with respect to some critical choices in that political solution, we think we have some very specific steps that may be able to help lead in the right direction. That needs to be properly explored.”
Lavrov said that he and Kerry were following up on the requests of Presidents Obama and Vladimir Putin that the U.S. military coalition and “the military of the Russian Federation, who now engage in some operations in Syria at the request of the Syrian Government, get in touch and establish channels of communications to avoid any unintended incidents.”
“And we agreed that the military should get into contact with each other very soon,” Lavrvo added.
“…We all want Syria democratic, united, secular; Syria which is a home for all ethnic and confessional groups, whose rights are guaranteed; but we have some differences as for the details on how to get there.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the Pentagon today that wouldn’t “rule out” talking with his counterpart, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu, as “I think that these kind of contacts are good.”
Carter’s moving forward with the plan to which he and Shoygu agreed before bombing started, to “send a DOD team to meet with Russian defense counterparts, at a location that we agreed upon, to ensure that we avoid any inadvertent incidents over Syrian air space.”
“As we pursue the defense-level talks with Russia on Syria, I want to be absolutely clear that these talks will not, in any way, diminish our strong condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine, or change our sanctions and security support in response to those destabilizing actions,” he said.
The Defense secretary acknowledged “it does appear that they were in areas where there probably was — were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach.”
“And this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military, professionally,” Carter added.