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Tillerson Says U.S. Prepared To Cooperate With Russia In Syria

U.S. -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks at a 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report ceremony at the U.S. State Department in Washington, June 27, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is prepared to cooperate with Russia in Syria, including on military matters, in a renewed gesture at reconciliation ahead of a meeting this week between the two nations' leaders.

Tillerson said late on July 5 that the United States is open to establishing no-fly zones in Syria in coordination with Russia as well as jointly setting up mechanisms to monitor cease-fires and to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid.

The U.S.-Russia cooperation would create stability in Syria, Tillerson said, as U.S.-backed forces continue their assault on the Islamic State extremist group, which he said is "badly wounded" and may be on the "brink of complete defeat."

"If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria's political future," Tillerson said.

Tillerson's statement came as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time on July 7 at a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The two are expected to discuss Syria, in what Tillerson said he hoped would be a "good exchange."

It was Tillerson's first comprehensive statement addressing the war in Syria. He stressed that the administration's goals are to prevent a resurgence of extremism from emerging in areas that U.S.-backed forces have recently liberated from IS control, and to enable Syrian civilians to return to their homes and rebuild their lives there.

"While there are no perfect options for guaranteeing stability, we must explore all possibilities for holding the line against the resurgence of ISIS or other terrorist groups," he said.

"The United States believes Russia, as a guarantor of [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's] regime and an early entrant into the Syrian conflict, has a responsibility to ensure that the needs of the Syrian people are met and that no faction in Syria illegitimately re-takes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS' or other terrorist groups' control," he said.

"Russia also has an obligation to prevent any further use of chemical weapons of any kind by the Assad regime," he said.

Tillerson said further U.S. cooperation with Russia would build on already successful efforts to avoid accidental clashes as both nations have waged battles on Syrian territory in recent months.

"The United States and Russia have already achieved progress in establishing de-confliction zones in Syria that have prevented mutual collateral damage," he said. "This evidence that our two nations are capable of further progress."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters