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‘Russia welcome in anti-IS coalition if it changes strategy’

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Washington: The US has said it will welcome Russia in the 65-nation coalition against ISIS, provided Moscow changes its strategy to focus on the terror organisation rather than “propping up the failed” Bashar al-Assad regime.

If Russia is prepared to change their strategy and prepared to focus their efforts on ISIS, and to work with the international community to do that, then the US would welcome them as members of its coalition, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday.

“Certainly their efforts and the resources that they can bring to bear would be important. But thus far, they’ve been unable to do that. They focused on another goal, and it is not one that has allowed them to build a coalition on nearly the scale of what the United States has built,” he said.

Earnest said US President Barack Obama has been pretty blunt about what Russia is doing.

“Right now, what Russia is doing is they are undermining our effort to reach a political settlement, and they are doing that because they are concerned primarily with propping up the failed regime of Bashar al-Assad,” he said.

“Those efforts only undermine our ability to engage the moderate Syrian opposition in a discussion about the long-overdue political transition that even Russia acknowledges is needed and long overdue inside of Syria,” he said.

Earnest said that there is no evidence of erosion of its 65-nation coalition against ISIS.

“There’s zero evidence of that,” he said when asked if the US-led coalition is eroding in any way with Russia looking to form their own coalition.
Earnest said Russians need to ensure that they have a

military strategy that’s consistent with the diplomatic and political objectives that they themselves have identified.

“That’s been the real problem that Russia has had, both in terms of pursuing their own strategy and also in terms of getting people to go along with it. There’s this fundamental contradiction to what they say that their goals are and what they’re actually doing on the ground,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin himself has acknowledged that the terrible problems that are plaguing Syria right now will require a political solution and a political transition, Earnest said.

“But as long as Russia is engaged in a significant military effort to prop up Bashar al-Assad, that is only going to make it more difficult for that political transition to actually take place. It’s going to push that political solution further off into the distance, not bring it closer,” he said.

“That’s a problem for out 65-member coalition. It’s also a problem for Russia. And that’s something that the President has tried to persuade President Putin directly, and I know that other world leaders have tried to do the same,” Earnest said.

“What we would like to see from Russia is a commitment to the kind of counter-ISIL-focused military effort that our coalition is carrying out. Particularly if Russia was prepared to integrate those efforts with the broader coalition efforts, then that would have a positive impact, and that’s what we would like to see,” he said.