Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is willing to “cooperate” with the West in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) but does not believe the West is ready to work with their coalition.
“At the moment, unfortunately, our partners are not ready to work within the format of single coalition,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.
If Russia and the U.S.-led coalition do work together, Putin warned, their ties would be fragile, given that one of the members of the coalition, Turkey, shot down their warplane on Nov. 24.
“We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States. But of course incidents like the destruction of our aircraft and the deaths of our servicemen… are absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said at a news conference with French President François Hollande. “And we proceed from the position that there will be no repeat of this, otherwise we’ll have no need of cooperation with anybody, any coalition, any country.”
Despite this, Putin insisted the attack should not change Russia’s relationship with France.
“As is well known, Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic alliance, and France is also a NATO member, so we understand the situation France is in under these circumstances,” he said. “But Mr. President has expressed condolences to us in connection with the deaths of our servicemen, and we are very grateful to him for this.”
Hollande visited Russia to discuss the fight against ISIS after members of the group took responsibility for six terror attacks across Paris that killed 130 people. The two presidents “agreed to share intelligence information and cooperate on selecting targets.”
“We are talking about a designation of the territories against which we can conduct strikes, and where it is better to refrain from strikes, about the exchange of information on various issues, and the coordination of our actions on, so to speak, the battlefield,” explained Putin.
“What we agreed, and this is important, is to strike only terrorists and Daesh and to not strike forces that are fighting terrorism,” said Hollande. “We will exchange information about whom to hit and whom not to hit.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested the coalition could use Syrian troops in their fight.
“Troops on the ground cannot be ours, but [there can be] Syrian soldiers from the Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab states, and why not regime troops,” he said.
However, another official within the government said Fabius meant this could happen only after a “unity government” existed in Syria, since the French government has long said they will not work with President Bashar al-Assad or his forces.
“It could only happen in the framework of a political transition and Fabius stresses that this transition is urgent and indispensable,” commented the official.