The US State Department has said that John Kerry raised concerns about reports of “an imminent enhanced Russian military buildup” in Syria during a phone call to his counterpart in Moscow.
Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss with him the reports of Russia’s plan to boost its military intervention in Syria.
The US fears Russia’s alleged military buildup in Syria would counter Syrian groups who are battling both ISIS and government troops.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the fight against terrorism should be a coordinated international effort, and Russia is taking steps to form such a coalition. He added that in Syria it should go hand in hand with an internal political process.
Al Jazeera reports: The New York Times reported on Friday that Russia had sent a military advance team to Syria and was taking other steps that Washington fears may signal plans to vastly expand its military support for President Bashar al-Assad.
The paper said the moves included the recent transport of prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield and the delivery of a portable air traffic control station there.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was asked Friday whether Russia was taking part in military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in Syria.
“We are looking at various options but so far what you are talking about is not on the agenda,” he said.
“To say we’re ready to do this today – so far it’s premature to talk about this. But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons,” RIA Novosti state news agency quoted Putin as saying.
It made no mention of US concerns about a possible Russian military buildup, but said the two discussed “different aspects of the situation in Syria and its environs, as well as the objectives of the fight against ISIL and other terrorist groups”.
Moscow has never voiced support for moderate Syrian rebels and has referred to them as “terrorists” because of their opposition to Assad forces.