© Russia Today
Russia is reportedly constructing a military base in the Syrian port city of Latakia.
An anonymous American intelligence official on Saturday said Moscow is setting up an air traffic control tower and transporting prefabricated housing for as many as 1,000 personnel there, according to The Telegraph.
“We have regularly and repeatedly expressed our concern about Russian military report for the Assad regime,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Saturday, referencing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“If these reports are borne out, it would represent a very serious shift in the trajectory of the Syria conflict and call into question any Russian commitment to a peaceful settlement,” Kirby added. “We’re watching their actions very carefully.”
The Telegraph reported that Russia has also requested permission for its military cargo aircraft to fly over Syria’s neighbors during September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted Friday that his government is increasing its support of Assad’s regime in the near future.
“We are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons,” he said during an economic forum in Vladivostok on Friday, according to the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
Assad’s government has been violently battling rebels in Syria since civil war erupted there in 2011.
President Obama and Putin have repeatedly butted heads over how the international community should handle the conflict’s resulting humanitarian crisis.
Obama has urged Assad to step down from power, while Putin has offered support for his nation’s longtime ally in the Middle East.
The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region is further complicating matters by shedding blood as it seeks its self-described global caliphate.
Europe is currently struggling with the ensuing flood of refugees as millions of Syrians leave their war-torn nation for safer harbor.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Friday said the U.S. should lend its allies a helping hand by opening its borders to Syrian refugees.
“Americans are a generous and compassionate people,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement that afternoon. “I support the call from humanitarian and refugee organizations to accept at least 65,000 Syrian refugees next year.”