Russia Says Will Target US-Backed Fighters in Syria if Provoked

Russia Says Will Target US-Backed Fighters in Syria if ProvokedRussia Says Will Target US-Backed Fighters in Syria if Provoked

Russia warned the United States on Thursday it would target US-backed militias in Syria if Russian troops again came under fire, as the United States disclosed an unusual face-to-face meeting between US and Russian generals meant to avoid such clashes.

The Russian warning underscored growing tensions over Syria between Moscow and Washington. While both oppose the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, they are engaged, via proxies, in a race for strategic influence and potential resources in the form of oilfields in eastern Syria’s Deir al-Zor Province, Reuters reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces had taken up positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates with US special forces, and twice had opened fire with mortars and artillery on Syrian troops who were working alongside Russian special forces.

“A representative of the US military command in Al Udeid (the US operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“Fire points in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”

In a sign of the high stakes as both forces come in increasing proximity, US and Russian generals held a face-to-face meeting this week in an effort to avoid accidental clashes, US military officials said on Thursday.

“They had a face-to-face discussion, laid down maps and graphics,” said Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led coalition, adding it appeared to be the first meeting of its kind.

Dillon, addressing a Pentagon briefing, disclosed few details, including who participated in the meeting or its precise location.

A US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the participants included both US and Russian generals.


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