US, Russia to talk safety of air operations over Syria

Pentagon says it will hold talks with Russian military ‘to ensure safe air operations over Syria’

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015

US Department of Defense said on Friday that it is planning to hold talks with Russia, over safety of pilots and prevention of accidental crashes as early as this weekend, as both countries continue air strikes in Syria.

Since the start of Russian air strikes in Syria on Sept. 30, there were concerns about incidents between the air forces of the two countries and US has reported at least one case where a US jet had to change course to avoid an incident.

US has refused cooperation with Russia regarding air strikes in Syria, since the main aim of Russian intervention is to help Syrian regime leader, Bashar al Assad. US says Assad has to step down for a peaceful resolution to Syria’s civil war.

However, Pentagon made several proposals to Russian military officials last week aimed at avoiding incidents and said it was waiting for a formal response to hold further talks.

"The Department of Defense has received a formal response from the Russian Ministry of Defense regarding DOD's proposal to ensure safe air operations over Syria," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

"Department leaders are reviewing the Russian response and talks are likely to take place as soon as this weekend."

Russia started conducting air strikes in Syria in support of Assad regime forces immediately after authorisation was granted by the Russian Parliament on Sept. 30. Initial Russian claim was, they were targeting ISIS militants.

However, reports from Syrian activists and opposition members suggest that most of the areas hit by Russian air strikes are controlled by opposition groups fighting against Syrian regime forces.

ISIS had noticeably advanced towards the northern province of Aleppo in Syria early on Friday, seizing several villages and taking advantage of Russian air strikes in the region that dispersed the Syrian opposition forces.

Russian air strikes hit areas in western and northern Syria, which are mainly held by opposition, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain based monitoring group said on Saturday.

Syrian regime forces also carried out ground attacks on opposition forces in areas hit by Russian air strikes and killed several insurgents, Syrian state television reported on Saturday.

TRTWorld and agencies