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Ex-FSB chief suggests sharing info as first practical anti-IS step

Russia and the US may exchange information and coordinate efforts as their first joint step against the Islamic State, Nikolai Kovalev said

MOSCOW, January 29. /TASS/. The exchange of information and an end to US weapon supplies to the Syrian opposition may become the first practical steps in the declared joint Russian-US antiterrorism struggle, said lawmaker Nikolai Kovalev, who formerly headed Russia’s security service FSB.

In their phone conversation Saturday, the Russian and US presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, discussed mutual cooperation in defeating the Islamic State and joint efforts to achieve more peace in Syria

When asked about the first practical steps that the two states can make to achieve this goal, Kovalev named "coordination of efforts in Syria, joining forces, exchange of information."

"Intelligence services work in all regions, including the US intelligence and the intelligence of their allies who hand over their information to the United States," said the lawmaker, who is also the special envoy for the fight against terrorism of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Prior to those agreements between the presidents, there were no practical exchange of information, including on targets (in Syria)," Kovalev said. "It appears to me that this situation may now change drastically."

"An intent to jointly fight against terrorism of course automatically entails the refusal to supply any kind of weapons or ammunition to the zones of conflict in Syria," the lawmaker went on, adding that despite the previous administration’s declarations that the US supplies weapons only to opposition groups with no ties to terrorists, "those arms eventually end up in the hands of terrorists."

The Kremlin said late on Saturday that the heads of the two states had discussed a wide range of issues in their first conversation since Donald Trump took office on January 20, including antiterrorism efforts. They noted that joining forces in the fight against terrorism should become a priority in bilateral relations and spoke in favor of practical coordination of their efforts against the Islamic State. According to the Kremlin, the conversation was held in a positive and businesslike atmosphere.