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Pentagon Chief: US-Russia Dialogue Persists Across Syria Demarcation Line

© REUTERS / Umit BektasA Turkish army tank is positioned at a military post by the Euphrates river on the Turkish-Syrian border in Karkamis in Gaziantep province, Turkey, December 13, 2017
A Turkish army tank is positioned at a military post by the Euphrates river on the Turkish-Syrian border in Karkamis in Gaziantep province, Turkey, December 13, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Russian and US forces have been communicating across the "deconfliction line" in Syria despite glitches, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Friday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The deconfliction line runs down the Euphrates River. US-led coalition forces and their Syrian militant allies are positioned on its eastern bank, while Russia-backed government troops control the western bank.

"Never has it gone down, the deconfliction line between us and the Russian forces. Never once have we called, and it not been answered. Never once have they called, and we not answered," US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during a press gaggle.

This is an aerial view of the five-sided Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va., in 1975 - Sputnik International
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He added there had been problems on the demarcation line, but they were resolved. He added there was "no need" for the coalition to go after Islamic State (Daesh) fighters into the government-controlled territories.

Mattis said the Daesh caliphate was "on the run" and its fighters were fleeing west. He confirmed a statement by British General Felix Gedney who said Daesh forces heading west could mount counterattacks on the coalition, saying they attacked every day.

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"Some people escaped. That's what happens in war. They moved, clearly, into the Middle Euphrates River Valley. We are in the process of crushing the life out of the caliphate there," Mattis said.

The situation with the demarcation essentially means that President Bashar Assad's army will have to deal with Daesh fighters who flee west across the river.

"This is the normal thing that happens. I mean, it's not a big issue. They'll have to be hunted down. But I seriously doubt that Assad sees this as a positive on his side, either," Mattis said.

Earlier, the US Defense Department head wrote in an article that Pentagon will work together with Russia to promote mutual interests in Syria, saying that Washington is confident that the UN-led process in Geneva "will produce a Syria that is free of Bashar al-Assad and his family."

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Asked at a press gaggle in Washington whether the US plan for Syria was to dismantle it into several different countries, Mattis replied, "No."

Syria has been divided into areas controlled by government troops and those held by militant forces backed by the US-led international coalition, with Kurds commanding vast northern territories.

Mattis also told reporters at the Pentagon when asked whether Syrian government forces could disrupt US plans in Syria that "that would probably be a mistake".

When pressed to elaborate on the remark, Mattis said his comments did not constitute a warning. Rather, he said, the remark reflected the reality on the ground in Syria, where a demarcation line separates the US-led coalition from Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

Mattis Says He Does Not See 'Evolving US Military Role' in Ukraine

"No, I don't see an evolving US military role in Ukraine," Mattis said. "Right now, as you know, we have some trainers there helping to train their army to NATO standards… and that has a lot to do with making certain it serves the needs of the Ukrainian people, the way democracies’ armies do. And so, no, the US military role remains the same."

This 18 November 2000 DOD filer shows Corporal Allen Dantes, a Manila, Philippines native and Private First Class Ric Johnson, Newark N.J. native, both from Javelin Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), launching the first Javelin Missile ever to fired by deployed MEU during Exercise Slunj 2000 in Croatia - Sputnik International
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On Saturday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States planned to provide Ukraine with military assistance to help protect its territorial integrity, in a way that is purely defensive and will not violate the Minsk peace accords.

US media cited officials that the United States planned to sell lethal arms to Ukraine, including anti-tank Javelin missiles.

Russia has repeatedly warned against supplies of lethal arms to Ukraine, saying that such actions would result in escalating the conflict in the country's eastern Donbas region. Russia’s stance has also been supported by a number of European officials.

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