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Pentagon rejects Russia's joint airstrike proposal

By Marilyn Malara
Pentagon rejects Russia's joint airstrike proposal
U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles taxi the runway after landing Nov. 12, 2015, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Six F-15Es are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-ISIS missions in Iraq and Syria. The United States has rejected a proposal from Russia to commence joint airstrikes in the country. File Photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Taylor Worley

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The United States rejected Russia's proposal to carry out joint air strikes in Syria.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Friday, "We do not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria."

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"Russian operations are supporting and enabling the Assad regime and our focus is solely on degrading and defeating ISIL," he said of the countries' different military objectives in the battle against the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIS and Daesh.

Russia and the United States have as of late been carrying out separate bombing campaigns against the terrorist organization in civil war-torn Syria.

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Earlier Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed joint airstrikes planned for Wednesday aimed at the al-Nusra Front. Shoigu suggested targeting the movement of arms at Syria's Turkish border, insisting the operations would be completed in coordination with the Syrian government.

"Taking such a step would help the progress of the peace settlement in Syria. Of course, such measures have been agreed with the Syrian Arab Republic," Shoigu said Friday. "We suggest to the U.S. starting on May 25, joint action of the Russian Air Forces and the U.S.-led coalition forces to plan and conduct strikes against the al-Nusra Front, which does not support the cease-fire, as well as against convoys of arms and fighters crossing the Syrian-Turkish border."

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Russia is a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a coalition that has strained relations with the United States and its allies, who have insisted that the removal of Assad is a key component to ending the Syrian conflict. Russia has long backed Assad's regime.

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A shaky Russia-U.S.-brokered cease-fire, which began in late February, is barely holding together and is not being honored by groups that include al-Nusra Front and the IS.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin began withdrawing troops from Syria.

Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.

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