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US Not Clear on Russian Overlap in Syria

FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter says it is unclear whether the United States can find a way to cooperate with Russia on the crisis in Syria.

"We will continue to work with Russia on issues where our interests overlap,” Carter told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday. “It is possible, but not yet clear, that such an overlap might exist in Syria."

While the two countries both desire the Islamic State’s defeat, Carter said the U.S. cannot work with Russia if it were to “indiscriminately” fire on enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Carter welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart, Colonel-General Stepan Poltorak, to the Pentagon, reaffirming America’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty amid Russia’s aggressive support of separatists in Ukraine’s east.

He said the United States has provided Ukraine with $244 million in training and equipment.

President Barack Obama will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where both Ukraine and Syria are expected to dominate the discussion.

When asked about Russia’s involvement in Syria, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Colonel-General Stepan Poltorak told reporters that one factor of Russia’s involvement in Syria is “to divert the attention of the international community from Ukraine."

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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