ADDS WHITE HOUSE COMMENT
By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Pentagon has not been formally notified of a Russian proposal for joint action against al-Nusra Front in Syria, the agency said Friday.
"We've not received [the proposal] and I've seen the same reports you have," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said earlier in the day that Moscow had proposed that beginning May 25, it and the U.S. conduct joint airstrikes with the anti-Daesh coalition against al-Nusra Front and other groups not included in a truce with the Syrian regime and the opposition.
Saying his country reserves the right as of that date to carry out "unilateral airstrikes" against groups that fail to abide by the cease-fire, Shoigu said Russia received approval from the regime of Bashar al-Assad for the proposal.
Davis declined to accept or reject any future plans but said the U.S. military is not cooperating or collaborating on operations with Russia in Syria except to maintain air safety.
"Russian operations are supporting the Assad regime and our focus is solely on degrading and defeating ISIL," he said, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
At the White House, spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters that "this is not the first time Russia has proposed enhancing their military cooperation with the United States."
But he added that if Russia wants to combat the Nusra Front and Daesh "the first thing on their to-do list is to make sure that the Assad regime is abiding by" a nationwide truce.
Schultz declined to comment on additional U.S. action.
The “Cessation of Hostilities” agreement was reached by the U.S. and Russia in February in a bid to de-escalate the five-year conflict and pave the way for peace talks in Geneva between the regime and opposition.
But Assad’s forces have violated the deal with airstrikes and ground attacks, and some rebel groups have likewise acted against the accord.
Last week, the U.S. and Russia agreed to reinforce a short-term cease-fire in cities where attacks on civilians had increased.
*AA reporter Michael Hernandez contributed to this report