Pentagon: No coordination with Russia until ceasefire terms met
September 15, 2016
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. will not discuss a coordinated air campaign with Russia until all terms of a ceasefire in Syria have been met.
The agreement, which was negotiated last week by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, called for a seven-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid trucks to reach civilians in Aleppo and other war-torn regions. It also called for the U.S. and Russia to begin Monday discussing the terms of a Joint Implementation Center, where the U.S. and Russian militaries would coordinate efforts to strike against the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Thursday that those discussions on a joint center have not begun. He said the terms of the ceasefire, particularly the flow of humanitarian aid, must be met before the joint center can be discussed. While the levels of violence are down substantially, Cook said, forces on both sides accuse the other of violating the terms of the agreement.
“We’ve said that there would need to be the sustained period with the reduction in violence,” Cook said. “And we haven’t seen that yet … so I can’t predict exactly when or if that’s going to happen.”
In the days following Friday’s ceasefire announcement, the Pentagon voiced concern over the deal. The New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Ash Carter opposed it. On Thursday, Cook said that Carter is supportive of Kerry’s efforts, but remained skeptical of Russia’s intentions. “The Department of Defense is prepared to carry out its responsibilities as part of this arrangement,” Cook said. “You’ve also heard the secretary voice his skepticism in the past about Russian activities in Syria -- not just skepticism, but criticism of Russian activities in Syria … the open question is whether or not Russia will start doing the right thing in Syria.”