US and Russian military have clashed a dozen times in Syria, including in gun battles, according to US envoy to Syria. US and Russia are at odds in Syria, with Moscow supporting the current Syrian regime while Washington keen to overthrow the current government under President Bashar al-Assad.
US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, Ambassador James Jeffrey, made the remarks during an interview with Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti to elaborate casualty figures and details of a February gun battle in which American forces reportedly killed as many as 200 pro-Syria troops who launched an attack on a US base near the eastern town of Deir al-Zour.
“US forces are legitimately in Syria, supporting local forces in the fight against ISIS and as appropriate — and this has occurred about a dozen times in one or another place in Syria — they exercise the right of self-defence when they feel threatened,” Jeffrey further claimed in the interview as cited in a Saturday report by the US-based military news outlet Stars and Stripes, emphasising that none of the nearly 40 US troops had been killed or injured.
“That’s all we say on that,” added the US official, rejecting to offer specifics on the incident. He stressed, however, that it was not the only such confrontation between US and Russian forces in Syria, and that some of the clashes had involved shooting and some had not.
“There have been various engagements, some involving exchange of fire, some not,” he told the Russian journalists in remarks confirmed on the official website of the US Embassy in Moscow. “Again, we are continuing our mission there and we are continuing to exercise our right of self-defence.”
US Defense Department officials, however, did not immediately comment on Jeffrey’s remarks.
During the interview the US envoy also criticised Moscow’s decision to supply Syria with S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, labelling it as a “dangerous escalation,” claiming that it was responsible for the downing of a Russian spy plane and its crew of 15 and that it could further lead to more misunderstandings in the future.
The development came as the US declared earlier this week further sanctions aimed at curbing Russian and Iranian oil shipments to Syria.
Jeffrey also reiterated that the US had further sought Moscow’s support in urging the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. Tehran maintains that the advisors were in the country to at the invitation of Damascus to help the country repulse the foreign-backed terror campaign that has so far left hundreds of thousands of casualties.
“We need to see a de-escalation of the fighting in Syria,” Jeffrey asserted amid reports that the US has deployed hundreds of troops to the country since last year as Syrian government forces gained a clear upper hand over the foreign-backed terrorist across its territory.