US, Russia sign deal to avoid air accidents in Syria

Pentagon announces signing memorandum with Russia to avoid incidents over Syrian skies

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Sukhoi Su-24M military aircraft landing on the tarmac at the Hmeymim Air Base near Latakia, Syria.

Updated Oct 21, 2015

The Pentagon said on Tuesday, that the US has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia, to avoid incidents over the Syrian skies.

The deal includes specific protocols which both Russian and American pilots must follow in order to avoid incidents during air strikes, which both countries are conducting separately against ISIS.

In addition, the deal also includes creating links on the ground to provide communications for both sides in case there is no air communication.

Upon Russia's request, the full transcript of the deal would not be disclosed, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

“The US and Russia will form a working group to discuss any implementation issues that follow," Cook said during a press briefing.

"The fact that we have had to resort to a memorandum of understanding…gives you an indication of our concern about Russia's activities but (also) our willingness to work with the Russians when it’s in our own interest," Cook added.

Russia began its Syrian air operations on the side of the Assad regime on Sept. 30, targeting mostly Syrian opposition-held territories in the country rather than ISIS, the move has been strongly protested by Turkey, US, and the NATO alliance.

The Russian air strikes have mainly targeted the Army of Conquest, which is an anti-Assad opposition alliance that includes US-supported rebel groups.

The agreement between Russia and US also include the coalition warplanes of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

The US-led international coalition - which includes the US, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - conducted its first air strikes in Iraq on Aug. 8, 2014 against ISIS militants, but by September they had extended their operations to Syria, launching more than 2,289 air strikes in the country.

US-made F-16 fighter jets in action

Russian air strikes in Syria have killed at least 370 people since they began, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based non-governmental Organization which monitors the Syrian war.

On Tuesday, NATO voiced concerns about the Russian air strikes in Syria, stating that the air strikes may result in "an incident getting out of control," as Russia continues to conduct military operations in Syria.

"It's clear that Russian objectives and their air operations over Syria and those of the anti-ISIL [ISIS] coalition are not the same," said NATO Deputy Secretary General, Alexander Vershbow.

More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since the civil war started in 2011 between the Assad regime and opposition forces, following the Arab Spring movement that swept thru a number of countries in the Middle-East and North Africa.

In addition, 6.7 million Syrians are displaced internally, while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

TRTWorld and agencies