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International (Forat) -Russia's Foreign Ministry shunned concerns of the United States about an alleged Russian military build-up in Syria, which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said could lead to escalation of conflict in the war-torn country.
Kerry made his views known to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during a telephone conversation Saturday, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin denied his country's involvement in military operations against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.
"We are looking at various options but so far what you are talking about (Russia sending troops into Syria) is not on the agenda," Putin said Friday.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Saturday's telephone call was made at Kerry's initiative, without mentioning the United States' concerns about a possible Russian military build-up.
It said the two men discussed "different aspects of the situation in Syria and its environs, as well as the objectives of the fight against the IS and other terrorist groups," highlighting "cooperation" between Moscow and Washington in "supporting U.N. efforts aimed at launching a political process in Syria."
Israeli news outlet Ynet reported Monday, citing anonymous Western officials, that Russia was sending fighter jets to Syria to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State positions.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of State, Kerry "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 (IS) Coalition operating in Syria."
Kerry and Lovrov agreed to continue discussions of the Syrian issue during the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York later this month. /End/