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Russia and US might launch joint operations against terrorists in Raqqa — minister

The Americans agree that international terrorism is a common enemy, according to the Russian defense minister

MOSCOW, February 21. /TASS/. Russia and the United States might launch joint operations against Islamic State militants in Syria’s Raqqa, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday.

"Our task is to pool efforts. We have all opportunities for that. We have a common enemy - international terrorism. We and the Americans recognize it as an enemy," Shoigu said while answering questions from a student audience at the MGIMO university.

He also recalled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement no country would be able to eliminate terrorism on its own.

"Time is ripe to stop using us as a bugbear for intimidating the world and to begin calm, constructive and systematic work to achieve at least the level of relations that there was five to seven years ago," Shoigu said.

"We have everything at our disposal for cooperating effectively. Absolutely everything. There are no hindrances to starting this work together. If we are to use very specific terms, today it might be possible to start joint operations in Raqqa," Shoigu said.

For that, he said, it is necessary "to make ourselves heard and understood."

"We should make a pause, sit down and begin to talk normally," Shoigu said.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week the United States was unprepared for military cooperation with Russia for the time being, but it intended to cooperate politically.

Separating terrorists from opposition 

An exact map showing division lines between the moderate opposition and terrorists in Syria will be ready within days, Shoigu added.

"I think in a couple of days we will have the final exact map with locations of both the opposition that has joined the ceasefire and of militants".

Participants in an international meeting on Syria in Kazakhstan’s Astana on February 6 drew division lines on maps to separate moderate opposition and Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra groups. Russia’s chief negotiator noted back then that despite certain differences in approaches, the side "have generally agreed on mapping out these areas."