Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday he supports negotiations to bring an end to the six years of civil war and Islamic State-related conflict in Syria.
Mattis spoke with reporters while flying to Finland to meet with representatives of 12 European nations about Russian goals and activity in Eastern Europe. "Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson engaged strongly with [U.N. Special Envoy for Syria] Staffan de Mistura about how do we move what has been going on in [Russian-supported Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital city of] Astana," Mattis said, including "how do we move that over to Geneva where we can actually get the U.N. engaged on the way forward."
As ISIS continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, he added, good diplomacy will be important to avoid conflict between U.S. and Russian forces. Both oppose ISIS, but they support different sides in the Syrian civil war, and ISIS's losses make contact between the two militaries more likely.