The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East says he has not received new guidance from the Pentagon on military cooperation with Russia in Syria following the Helsinki summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We have received no specific direction at this point,” U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Tampa, Florida, Thursday.
Votel added that his forces are continuing communications to deconflict operations with the Russian military in Syria in order to “ensure protection” of U.S. forces.
“For us right now, it’s kind of steady as she goes (continuation of regular routine),” he said.
The U.S. is currently fighting remnants of Islamic State fighters in Syria while Russian forces are attacking anti-Assad groups in the country.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it was ready to implement what it claimed were agreements reached by Trump and Putin on increased cooperation with the U.S. military in Syria.
General Votel reiterated on Thursday that U.S. law, adopted following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, prohibits bilateral cooperation with the Russian military. Exceptions “would have to be created by Congress or a waiver,” he said.