West and Russia move to eschew differences and strengthen Syria response | News | DW | 17.11.2015
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West and Russia move to eschew differences and strengthen Syria response

While a divide remains over the fate of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Moscow and Western countries began to move closer towards military cooperation. Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to treat the French "as allies."

Major foreign powers involved in the Syrian conflict came closer to side-stepping their differences on Tuesday in a bid to increase pressure on "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists. While meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Tuesday, US top diplomat John Kerry said that he believed "we're weeks away conceivably from the possibility of a big transition for Syria."

"We are not talking about months, we are talking about weeks hopefully," Kerry stressed, and added that his government was planning to work together with Turkey to seal off a 98-kilometer (60 mile) stretch of the country's border with Syria.

Putin to troops: Treat French 'as allies'

Hollande is also set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week. Differences about the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have long hindered the West from working in tandem with Russia against IS, but Putin has vowed to bolster cooperation with France after the Paris attacks which left 129 people dead last Friday.

John Kerry, however, was clear that increased coordination with Moscow would require more political drive from the Kremlin to end the war - which means conceding that Assad absolutely must step down.

Putin, for his part, ordered his forces to cooperate with French troops "as allies" in anti-IS airstrikes.

"In the near future, a French naval force headed by an aircraft carrier will approach the region," Putin told his top military leaders. "You need to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies."

"You will need to develop with them a mutual action plan in the sea and in the air," the president added. His comments came just hours after Russian officials announced that the recent downing of a Metrojet airplane in Egypt's Sinai region, which killed all 224 mostly Russian passengers and crew, was the work of an IS-orchestrated bombing.

Britain to re-visit Syria strategy

Britain also moved to join the US-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in Syria two years after parliament rejected the idea.

"We cannot expect, we should not expect, others to carry the burdens and risks of protecting our country," said Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday, who supported the move to participate in the strikes in 2013, before it was defeated by 13 votes.

Cameron told lawmakers that he would present them with a "comprehensive strategy" for tackling IS.

"Our allies are asking us to do this, and the case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks," he said, adding that it was the "right thing for our country."

es/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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