Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday expressed U.S. concern over reports of Russia’s increasing military buildup in Syria in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“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 coalition operating in Syria,” The State Department said, using another name for the Islamic State, Reuters reported.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov agreed to continue with discussions on the Syrian conflict in New York later this month, the department said.
Reports emerged on Friday that Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and is ramping up its military presence there — a move the U.S. fears may signal that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to increase his military support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russia recently transported temporary housing units for hundreds of people and a portable air traffic control station to a Syrian airfield.
Moscow has also filed military overflight requests with neighboring countries through September.
American officials admit that they are not certain of Russia’s intentions, but some say the temporary housing suggests that Russia could deploy as many as 1,000 advisers or other military personnel to the airfield near the Assad family’s ancestral home, The New York Times reported. The airfield serves Latakia, Syria’s principal port city.