Britain should cooperate with Russia in any air strikes it carries out in Syria, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, underlining Moscow’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Britain has already launched air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. But Prime Minister David Cameron wants to follow allies by extending the operation to militant positions in neighbouring Syria, and has said he will submit a plan to parliament to do so.
“Undoubtedly, it (any British action) should be a matter of cooperation, so that the steps are not directed at destroying the statehood of Syria,” Zakharova told current affairs programme Vesti on Saturday.
Zakharova cited remarks by the Syrian ambassador in Moscow, according to which countries that coordinate their military actions with Russia are regarded by Syria as coordinating their actions with Syria.
Russia began a large-scale bombing campaign against targets in Syria on Sept. 30, which Moscow says is focused on Islamic State militants but critics say targets a wider band of opponents of Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Following last week’s gun and bomb attacks in Paris, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his military to work with French forces as “allies”, fueling speculation about deeper military cooperation between Russia and the West against Islamic State that would help thaw relations more generally.
However, Russia and the West remain deeply divided about the future of Assad and the role of his government in approving military operations in Syria.
Cameron said on Wednesday that the backing of the United Nations Security Council would be preferable for British military action but was not necessary, and that Russia had repeatedly threatened to veto any resolution authorising force.
Commenting on Cameron’s remarks, Zakharova said that Britain “should have reached of course not for the microphone but for the telephone” to instruct the British ambassador to the United Nations “to begin consultations, including with Russia”.
“We have never blocked anything (at the UN Security Council), as far as sensible initiatives based on international law are concerned,” she said.
In the past Russia and China have repeatedly blocked Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions critical of the Syrian government or proposing stronger international actions against it.