DAMASCUS — Syria has “no reservations” about U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and wants to team up with Washington to tackle the militants, the country’s deputy foreign minister told NBC News.
Faisal Mekdad called Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad “a natural ally” for the U.S. in its battle against ISIS, saying in an exclusive interview that both countries are “fighting the same enemy” and should be working together — not antagonizing each other.
“When it comes to terrorism, we should forget our differences… and forget all about the past,” Mekdad said. “It takes two to tango...We are ready to talk."
He urged the U.S. administration to come forward "energetically and courageously" to join with Syria in the fight against ISIS, suggesting a broad coalition against the militants that would also include Russia, China and Iran.
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Mekdad openly expressed support for airstrikes on Syria — an option detailed by President Barack Obama in an overnight speech — by saying his administration has “no reservations whatsoever.”
But he said cited the need for logistical coordination with the U.S. before any airstrikes so “there should be no mistakes,” and said “it is a must” for Obama to call Assad.
Mekdad’s remarks stood in stark contrast to the response from Assad’s longtime ally, Russia, whose foreign ministry said that airstrikes in the absence of a United Nations Security Council decision would be a “gross violation” of international law, according to Reuters.
When it came down to international law, Mekdad was most concerned about Obama’s plan to arm rebel groups in Syria.
"Betting on other forces in Syria is a very big mistake," he warned.
- Paul Nassar and Tony Hemmings contributed to this report.