U.S. Says No Cooperation With Russia If It Hits Non-ISIL Targets

  • Defense secretary criticizes strategy as `tragically flawed'
  • U.S. still waiting for formal response on air-safety talks

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, criticizing Russia’s strategy in Syria as “tragically flawed” and “way off base,” said the U.S. would refuse to cooperate with Moscow’s forces as long as they continue to hit targets other than Islamic State militants.

Carter told a news conference in Rome that the U.S. would continue only “basic technical discussions on professional safety procedures” for its pilots flying above Syria, and that the Obama administration would “keep the channel open.”

“We believe Russia has the wrong strategy. They continue to hit targets which are not ISIL,” Carter said after talks with his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti. “We believe this is a fundamental mistake.”

Both U.S. officials and Syrian opposition groups have accused Russia’s air strikes -- its first military venture outside the former Soviet Union in more than three decades -- of mainly targeting moderate rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

“Despite what the Russians say, we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia so long as they continue to pursue this mistaken strategy and hit these targets,” Carter said.

Concerning news reports that the Russians are willing to discuss air safety, Carter said the U.S. has “not heard back from them formally, and so we are still awaiting a formal response from Russia for discussion on that basis.”

According to Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, quoted by RIA Novosti, Russia may accept U.S. proposals on coordinating strikes against the Islamic State militants in Syria. He said Russian and U.S. experts were expected to discuss technical details on Wednesday.

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