Russian ambassador says military cooperation with US in Syria
Russia and the US are working together to prevent conflicts and incidents between them in Syria, according to the Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov.
There have been a number of run-ins between Russian and US forces in northern Syria, where both sides have hundreds of troops present.
The US backs Kurdish-led militias while Russia has been a key ally of the Syrian regime with the ambassador saying that Washington and Moscow working together to prevent hostilities between the two sides.
"Russia and the United States maintain contacts on Syria. In this regard cooperation through the military channels is especially worth mentioning. This type of engagement has proven to be effective," said Antonov in an interview with Newsweek on Friday.
"We consider it essential to continue the de-conflicting dialogue on Syria. Constant and expeditious military-to-military exchange of information help to avoid unnecessary and dangerous incidents in the Arab republic," he added.
Russia and the US have cooperated publicly on humanitarian operations in Syria. In July, Russia agreed to a last-minute compromise with the US that ensured UN aid access to millions of people in northwest Syria for 12 months.
Russia had threatened to veto an extension to the relief effort to rebel-held Idlib, which human rights groups warned could lead to mass starvation.
Details about military cooperation between the two countries are vaguer.
'Illegal US occupation'
The diplomat, however, insisted the US troop presence in Syria is "illegal" and "the [US] occupation of almost one-third of the Syrian territory is unacceptable".
"We assume that the American forces and other unlawful military troops should be withdrawn from all parts of Syria," he added.
In the wide-ranging interview, Antonov blamed regional conflicts elsewhere on "attempts of Western countries, including the US, to impose their vision of democracy around the world".
Russia has backed Bashar Al-Assad since war broke out in 2011 when regime forces gunned down protesters leading to a wider anti-government uprising.
In September 2015 Russia intervened with airstrike following a series of rebel advances, leading to thousands more civilian deaths.
The US sent troops to Syria in 2017 to assist Kurdish-led ground operations against the Islamic State group with hundreds remaining in the north aiding counter-insurgency operations.
The Syrian regime has threatened to re-take these territories by force.
Iran Nuclear Deal
On heightened tensions between the US and Iran, Antonov insisted that "diplomacy is the only way of solving the Iranian nuclear problem. Since its conclusion, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) proved its effectiveness by ensuring transparency of Iran's nuclear program".
"From all perspectives, the nuclear deal is an optimal combination of obligations and benefits all its participants, as well as the entire world community."