Reports about Russia possibly planning to expand its military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has prompted a warning from the U.S. that such actions could lead to a clash with coalition forces. The State Department issued a statement after Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to express concern over the rumors “suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up” in Syria.
The State Department said Kerry made it clear to Lavrov in their conversation that such actions “could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation” with the anti-Islamic State coalition led by the U.S. that is carrying out airstrikes in Syria. However, the State Department didn’t elaborate or confirm the accuracy of those reports. Russia has been an ally of Assad throughout Syria’s civil war and has provided diplomatic support and weaponry to help the Syrian leader maintain his grip on power. Moscow also maintains a small naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartous on the Mediterranean Sea. FULL REPORT