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Putin Proposes New Coalition to Fight Islamic State

Putin's initiative comes after the failure of the U.S.-led airstrikes to dislodge Islamic State from its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed Russia's support of the Syrian government following a meeting with its Foreign Minister Walid Muallem yesterday, TASS reported.

Speaking to journalists after the talks, Putin acknowledged the Islamic State terrorist group remains the biggest threat in the region, and said Syria must unite with neighboring countries in order to combat it. He added that Russia was ready to facilitate dialogue between countries in the region.

<figcaption>"Everyone wants to contribute to fight this evil", Putin said.</figcaption>
"Everyone wants to contribute to fight this evil", Putin said.

"We believe that in order to effectively combat terrorism and extremist radicalism, it is necessary for all countries in the region to unite their efforts,” Putin said.

The president said that Moscow's contacts with the countries in the region, including with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, "showed that everyone wants to contribute to fight this evil," referring to the Islamic State.

He exhorted all nations in the region, whatever their relations with Syria are, to "pool their efforts together" to fight the Islamic militants. “In this regard, we call on all of our friends, including Syria, to do everything they can to establish constructive dialogue with all concerned countries in the fight against terrorism,” Putin said.

The president admitted that creating a coalition to fight the Islamic State would not be an easy task, given the differences that exist between the countries on the frontline of the war. But he said, “if the Syrian leadership considers it appropriate and feasible, we will do everything to support you. That means using our good relations with all countries in the region to try and create such a coalition.”

The odds may be against that happening, but Putin's comments show that Russia recognizes the reality that U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State have largely failed to make a dent in it. As such, any serious effort to defeat Islamic State clearly needs to involve the Syrian government and its military, which along with the Kurds is one of the few effective forces ranged against it on the ground.

Putin added that Russia's "policy to support Syria, the Syrian leadership and the Syrian people remains unchanged.

For his part, Syria's Muallem told reporters he had been given assurances that "Russia will continue to help Syria politically, economically and militarily."

Moscow's show of support for the embattled Syrian government comes just days after the European Union voted to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months, and once again illustrates its determination to lead an independent foreign policy no matter how much pressure its rivals apply.

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