Syria, Iraq discuss direct cooperation against Islamic State: SANA

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Iraqi envoy met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Thursday to explore direct military cooperation against Islamic State (IS) militants, Syrian state media said.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said Iraqi national security adviser Faleh al-Fayad and Assad discussed “practical measures for military coordination on both sides of the border in light of the victories the Iraqi army is achieving in Mosul”.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have been chipping away at the remaining districts of Mosul under Islamic State control, seven months into a campaign to recapture Iraq’s second largest city.

“They (Assad and Fayad) explored the prospect of direct cooperation soon between the Syrian and Iraqi armies to fight terrorism collectively,” SANA said.

Iraqi warplanes have hit IS inside Syria in coordination with Damascus. IS holds swathes of territory in northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria, but has lost considerable ground to U.S.-backed military offensives over the past year.

In Syria, Islamic State is fighting hard against several separate enemies, including Russian-backed Syrian government forces, trying to reinforce its presence as it is being pushed back in neighboring parts of Iraq.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Mark Heinrich