09:43 GMT +322 May 2019
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    A Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) fighter poses for a picture near Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city, Syria March 8, 2017

    What's Behind Assad's Words on Cooperation With West on Raqqa Liberation

    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    Middle East
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    The Syrian government is ready to cooperate on the liberation of Raqqa with any country, including those in the West that are willing to defeat terrorism, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Sputnik.

    "Regarding fighting terrorism, we always announce that we are ready to cooperate with any countries that are truly ready or want or have the will to fight terrorism," Assad said.

    He continued: "We didn't even define which countries; any country including the West, taking into consideration that we already know that the West supports the terrorists and it doesn't have a will to fight them. But we said whoever is ready, we are ready."

    Vis-à-vis Russian and Kurdish forces, Assad noted that Damascus had always been in contact with "different factions in Syria who are fighting the terrorists, and we had direct contact with the Kurds, and of course with the Russians regarding this."

    The advance of the Syrian Army toward Raqqa skidded following a terrorist offensive in the province of Hama, but it was not completely stopped, the president said.

    In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Ivan Konovalov, director of the Center for Strategic Environment think tank, noted that, as a pragmatic politician, Bashar al-Assad is ready to cooperate with any forces that could be helpful in the fight against terrorism.

    "His statement indicates that currently there are no serious differences between the Syrian Army and Kurdish units. Kurds are believed to be the main striking force during the liberation of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Daesh caliphate. As a pragmatic politician, Assad of course is ready to cooperate against terrorism in Syria," Konovalov pointed out.

    At the same time, the expert expressed doubt that Washington will agree to cooperate with Damascus even if this cooperation simply means not meddling.

    "What could this cooperation be? For example, if the Americans do not prevent the Syrian Army from liberating Raqqa, the city will be liberated. This would be a form of cooperation too. This is why Assad’s words can be interpreted in a broader sense – either as direct military cooperation or as not meddling. But the US is unlikely not to interfere. Despite their statements, Assad remains a problem for Washington," the expert said.

    The liberation of Raqqa from Daesh militants is part of the Euphrates Rage military campaign conducted by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The operation began on November 5, 2016. The SDF is backed by US aviation and special forces.

    Damascus has repeatedly said that the involvement of US troops in the operation was not authorized by the Syrian government and their presence in northern Syria could be regarded as an intervention.


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    military operation, terrorism, military conflict, cooperation, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Bashar al-Assad, Syria, United States
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