US rejects cooperating with Russia or Assad in Raqqa operation

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Militant fighters from the extremist Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. File photo

ARA News

The US-led coalition will not work with Russia or the Syrian government to take Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS), according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Moscow and Damascus have in the past suggested that the United States coordinate the Raqqa campaign with them.

“As you are painfully aware, we had an agreement in place […] from Geneva where we would have coordinated with Russia on going after al-Nusra and possibly ISIS,” Toner said.

“We didn’t get there. So at this point, there’s no coordination. There’s no plan to coordinate with either the regime or Russia in going after Daesh,” Toner added, employing an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Nevertheless, Toner said that the coalition still intends to work in a multilateral setting, trying to get to a cessation of hostilities. “[When] we can get political negotiations back up and running in Geneva we will hopefully achieve a political transition and then achieve our goal, which is a secular sovereign Syria,” he said.

The State Department’s spokesperson also stressed that the US will continue to work with Turkey and the Syrian Kurds to fight ISIS, even though they view each other antagonistically. Turkey is preventing Syrian Kurds from unifying their canton administrations and therefore Kurds called on the US not to include Turkey in any operation in Raqqa.

“We’ve called on all sides in this conflict to focus, […] whether it’s the People’s Protection Units, whether it’s other Syrian, Arab, or Kurdish forces and whether it’s Turkey. The main enemy here is Daesh. What we’re trying to do here is liberate territory that Daesh holds in Syria,” the Toner stressed.

“This is about working together in a coordinated fashion – including Turkey, including other partners on the ground in northern Syria – to remain focused on removing, destroying Daesh,” Toner added.

The State Department deputy spokesperson also said that while he is aware of the Turkish concerns regarding the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the US didn’t axiomatically share them.

“We’re aware of Turkey’s concerns regarding YPG,” Mark Toner concluded. “We’ve talked at length about how we believe that while the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is a foreign terrorist organization. We don’t necessarily draw that same conclusion about the YPG; they’re a very effective local fighting force in northern Syria.”

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