Russia is reaching out to the UK to establish contact with groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow's initiative has come at a time when the West is increasingly accusing Russia of pounding rebel positions in Syria and not targeting Islamic State (Isis) militants.
The Russian embassy in London is reportedly coordinating with British authorities to engage the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in talks. Amid allegations that Russian warplanes targeted medical facilities which are operated by rebels, Moscow, a staunch supporter of Assad, has sent indications that it was willing to consider FSA's political role in resolving the conflict.
"[Russian ambassador to the UK] Alexander Yakovenko announced that the Russian side would be grateful to British partners for assistance in establishing contacts with the Free Syrian Army in what concerns its efforts, as well as those of the Syrian Armed Forces, in the fight against ISIL [another acronym for Isis] and FSA's possible participation in the political process," an embassy spokesperson told Russia's Sputnik International.
The spokesperson added: "The Russian side stressed [during the meeting] that consolidation of international efforts is necessary for an effective countering of the threat coming from Islamic State and other terrorist groups."
Ahead of Russia's request to the UK, the country's defence ministry had conceded that it was aware of FSA positions, which is the umbrella organisation of several anti-Assad groups, against Isis militants in the region. The ministry's spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told reporters: "We focused our attention on the fact that certain forces operating in Syria at present, including the Free Syrian Army, express their willingness to cooperate and get involved in the discussions on participation in the struggle against the ISIL."
Russia began pounding Islamist targets since 30 September with airstrikes. Further, widening their offensive, Russian forces have launched cruise missiles from warships, which are stationed in the Caspian Sea.