MOSCOW, November 3. /TASS/. The Russian military have established contacts with leaders of the Syrian opposition and field commanders of a number of armed groups, chief of the Main Department for Operations at the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Gen Andrey Kartapolov said on Tuesday.
The Russian general underscored that Russia had repeatedly said it was ready to "cooperate with all Syrian patriotic forces struggling against terrorists from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra [both outlawed in Russia - TASS]."
"As part of efforts to create a broad international anti-terrorist coalition in the Middle East, we have established contacts with leaders of the Syrian opposition and field commanders of a number of armed groups," he said.
"Despite their four-year-long confrontation with the government troops, these patriotically-minded forces postpone their political ambitions to the ideas of preserving Syria as a united independent state free from the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations," Kartapolov said. "We hope this step will give a new vector in the settlement of the Syrian conflict."
Kartapolov also said the Syrian opposition provided coordinates of 24 terrorist targets in Syria to the Russian military.
"We have reached an agreement on joint actions against terrorists and established contacts for information transfer. Thus, Russia’s warplanes flew 12 sorties today to hit 24 terrorist targets with the use of boosted devices and high-precision air bomb KAB-500 in the areas of Tamdor, Deir ez-Zor, Itria and east of Aleppo. Coordinates of these targets were referred by the opposition," he said.
In particular, the Russian air strikes destroyed a terrorist command center, a munitions depot, ten various fortified positions and 12 artillery and air defense positions of terrorists.
The military official said the Russian Defense Ministry and the leadership of the Syrian opposition set up coordination groups for joint operations against the Islamic State terrorists in Syria.
"We have set up working coordinating groups and as of now their composition and [geographical] deployment would not be made public for obvious reasons," Russian General Staff Main Operations Department Head Col.-Gen. Andrei Kartapolov said.
"Arrangements have been made for their joint activities of coordinating efforts in the struggle against the Islamic State," Kartapolov said. "Such close cooperation will enable us to pool efforts by all government troops and other patriotic forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, which previously stayed in opposition, to present a common front against one enemy - international terrorism."
Russia started a military operation against the Islamic State terrorist group in the Syrian territory at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on September 30. The air group in Syria includes more than 50 warplanes, including Su-34 and Su-24M bombers; Su-25 assault aircraft; Su-30SM fighter jets as well as Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters.
The Russian pilots have made 1,631 combat sorties and delivered air strikes at 2,084 terrorist facilities since the military operation started, Kartapolov told journalists on November 3 confirming that Russia had no intention to participate in land operations in Syria.
The Islamic State is an Islamic terrorist organization banned in Russia. In 2013-2014, it was known under the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and operated mainly in Iraq and Syria. In June 2014, the Islamic State announced the establishment of an "Islamic caliphate" (a state with a Sharia form of government) on the territories it had seized and reduced its name to the Islamic State.
According to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, the extremist group numbers around 30,000 people. The Iraqi authorities say however it has up to 200,000 gunmen. Among members of the group are citizens of 80 countries, including France, Great Britain, Germany, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, US, Canada, Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Islamic State militants reportedly control up to 40% of the Iraq’s territory and about 50% of the Syrian territory.