Kerry Warns Russia on 'Enhanced Military Buildup' in Syria

In call to Russian counterpart, U.S. secretary of state addresses reports of increased support for Assad for the first time.

 Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the nuclear agreement with Iran at the National Constitution Center on September 2, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the nuclear agreement with Iran at the National Constitution Center on September 2, 2015Credit: AP

The United States directly complained to Russia for the first time Saturday about reports of its military build-up in Syria, but has not yet officially confirmed a Russian presence in the war-torn country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday to express concerns about "reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military buildup there."

According to The New York Times, Russia has delivered a portable air traffic control system and prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people at a Syrian airfield. It cited unnamed administration officials. In addition, the Russians have filed military overflight requests across bordering countries throughout September, the story said.

The statement by the U.S. did not elaborate or confirm the accuracy of the report.

"The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL [Islamic State] Coalition operating in Syria," according to a statement from the State Department.

Russia has been a stalwart ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout Syria's civil war and has provided diplomatic support and weaponry to help the Syrian leader maintain his grip on power. Moscow also maintains a small naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartous on the Mediterranean Sea.

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