Russia has suddenly stopped using an Iranian airbase to launch airstrikes in Syria. Both Moscow and Tehran have confirmed Russian planes have returned home.
Last week Russia announced what it called an increase in cooperation with Iran. The raids were the first carried by Russia from a third country since it began an air campaign to support Syrian President Bashar al Assad almost a year ago, and also the first launched from Iranian soil by a foreign military since World War Two.
A statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that as long as Iran agreed, Russia could use the Iranian air base again, “depending on the situation” in Syria.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran that the Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request…. but that is finished for now.”
Washington spokesman Mark Toner from the State Department said the situation was being monitored.
“I’d have to refer you frankly to the governments of Russia and Iran to speak to what happened, we’re monitoring it closely, we continue to, it’s not clear to us other than what we’ve seen in various press and public statements whether (Russia) their use of this airbase has definitively stopped, but we’ll continue to watch it closely. “
He went on to say that the US does know that Iran is supporting the Assad regime and working with Russia to do so.
On a second front, talks between the US and Russia on military cooperation in the fight against ISIL militants in Syria are said to be nearing an end.
Speaking in Nairobi, Kenya, US Secretary of State John Kerry said:
“It is possible that something could be agreed at, upon before the end of the month, but I can’t tell you whether it is likely I wouldn’t express optimism, I would express hope. I will say this, this has to end, this Syrian travesty. It has gone on far too long, it has cost many too many lives.”
Kerry would have Washington and Moscow share intelligence to coordinate air strikes against jihadist groups and to prohibit the Syrian air force from attacking moderate rebel.