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Trump Administration In Secret Talks With Russia Over Syria Conflict

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U.S. and Russian diplomats have engaged in secret talks in an attempt to create a safe zone in southern Syria over the last several weeks, according to a report by the Al-Monitor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reportedly taken the lead in working with Russia and other regional partners to find a way to secure the southern portion of the war-torn country.

“Last week, the Americans and Russia met in Jordan with the Jordanians to discuss these zones in the south,” a former diplomat told the Al-Monitor. “The meeting in Jordan was one part where the US and Russia, Israel and Jordan can work together to have [a] de-escalation zone in the south of Syria.”

Brett McGurk, the White House’s Special Envoy on ISIS, and the U.S. Envoy on Syria Michael Ratney also participated in the talks, per the report.

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The U.S. is particularly concerned with southern Syria due to its proximity to Israel and Jordan, two key Middle Eastern allies. Israel has expressed particular concern over the presence of Iranian militias in southern Syria. U.S.-led forces struck Iranian and pro-Assad militias in southern Syria last month after the forces came too close to a joint U.S.-U.K. base in the area. Israel has also engaged in strikes in the area.

The meetings between Russia and Syria have occurred frequently, and have been “rather serious,” according to the report.

The Trump administration’s interest in securing southern Syria comes after Russia, Iran and Turkey’s agreement to create safe zones early last month. The U.S. was not a signatory to the agreement.

The U.S.-Russia tensions over Syria increased after Trump signed off on an airstrike on a Syrian government air base believed to be responsible for a chemical attack on civilians. Russia responded by threatening to cut off a safety hotline with the U.S. regarding Syrian air space.


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