PENTAGON - The Pentagon is dismissing a Russian proposal to carry out joint airstrikes against al Qaida-linked terrorists in Syria.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu floated the notion Friday during a meeting that was broadcast on Russian state television, adding that the strikes could begin as early as May 25, and would be coordinated with the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
“We believe the adoption of these measures will allow a transition to a peaceful process to be achieved in the entire territory of Syria," said Shoigu.
“Nothing’s formally been presented to us,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Friday.
“I can only tell you from where I sit, and from where we sit today that we do not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria,” Davis said. “We don’t have military-to-military relations with Russia.”
The U.S. suspended all military ties with Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea.
U.S. and Russian military officials have engaged in deconfliction talks, however, to make sure U.S. and Russian forces operating in Syria do not accidentally engage each other.
“They [the Russians] are certainly aware in a broad sense of where we are on the ground and have been advised not to do anything that would put our personnel at risk,” Davis said.
The U.S. and Russia are both part of the multi-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which met earlier this week in Vienna.
The group has been working to enforce a cease-fire in Syria and speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid to areas hit hard by ongoing fighting. It also this week urged rebels groups to end any associations they have with Jabhat al Nusra, the al Qaida affiliate in Syria, as well as with the Islamic State terror group.
Neither Jabhat al Nusra nor Islamic State are covered under the cease-fire agreement, and both have been targeted by U.S. and Russian airstrikes.
Still, the Pentagon’s Capt. Jeff Davis said it made little sense for the U.S. and Russia to join forces.
“Russian operations are supporting and enabling the Assad regime, and our focus is solely on degrading and defeating ISIL,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Some material from Reuters was used in this report.