Syrian troops meet Iraqi forces at the border for the first time in years



Associated Press

Syrian troops and allied militias met up with Iraqi forces at one crossing point along their shared border overnight for the first time in years, in a step described as a major achievement by the Syrian military in their fight against the Islamic State group.

Soldiers stand behind barbed wire.

The development reported by pro-government media  comes a day after Iraqi forces captured a border crossing point with Syria, al-Waleed, from the IS militants. It was not immediately clear if the Syrian forces reached a new point along their border with Iraq or whether it was the Iraqi forces that had moved northeast of their newly captured point.

The US-led coalition said it was aware of the Iraqi forces' maneuvers along the border, which highlight Baghdad's resolve to fight IS. The maneuvers have no impact on the USpresence nearby, a coalition colonel said.

A map by the Central Military Media, allied with the Syrian government, showed Syrian troops at the border with Iraq, northeast of al-Waleed border crossing point with Syria. The Lebanese al-Manar TV linked to Hezbollah, the militia fighting alongside the Syrian government, said Syrian and Iraqi troops linked up at the borders, after the Syrian army seized new territories in its campaign in the Syrian desert.

The Britain-based opposition war monitor group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Iraqi forces had moved northeast of al-Waleed meeting up with pro-Syrian troops for the first time since 2015. The borders had been controlled by IS since.

A Syrian general on the pro-government al-Ikhbariya TV channel said the campaign in recent weeks seized 25,000 square kilometres reaching the Iraqi borders, calling it a "qualitative operation."

"This is the sign of the cooperation between the brotherly Iraqi and Syrian military leadership to secure the shared borders," the unnamed general told the pro-state TV. The general was interviewed in the desert, in an area purported to be across from where the Iraqi forces are based. Syrian officials were recently in Iraq meeting with defense officials there.

The general said the meeting point for Iraqi and Syrian forces is northeast of Tanf, an area where U.S. troops and Syrian opposition fighters are based, and where they were recently encircled by the Iranian-sponsored pro-Syrian forces.

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