Australia halts air strikes in Syria after Russian entry

Australian fighter jets halt air strikes in Syria as Russian entry increases complexity in region says operations chief

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Australian F-18E Super Hornet jets carrying out operations against ISIS in Iraq

Australian operations chief David Johnston on Wednesday said combat aircrafts have not flown over Syria since the Russian intervention as its involvement has ‘increased complexity’ in the already turbulent region.

Vice-Admiral Johnston noted that although Australian fighter jets are currently on hold from conducting air strikes in Syria, coalition operations will still continue as planned and Australia will fly over Syria “as the tactical circumstances require it.”

“Our tasking depends on the priorities of the day that come out of the air operations centre. There is no change in our availability to conduct air operations in Syria,” said Vice-Admiral Johnston.

The operations chief noted that Australia is seeking reassurance that Russia’s movements in Syria will not hinder its air movements and its objectives are parallel to those of the US-led coalition. 

“It is increasingly a complex area in Syria, and I think the entry of Russian forces increases that complexity further,” Johnston said. “It would be ideal if it was complementary, and working to the same objectives that the coalition are working to.”

Russian fighter jets began bombing opposition forces in Syria on September 30, just hours after lawmakers in the upper house of parliament in Moscow unanimously approved military action in Syria.

Washington has warned Moscow that attempts to support the Assad regime will be counterproductive and will only fuel the rise of militant groups like ISIS even more. 

The US and Russia have agreed on maintaining Syria’s unity and the need to fight ISIS, but remain divided on whether to support the Assad government. 

Both countries are on course to discussing arrangements which will assure that aircrafts will stay out of each other's way.

The US has been leading a coalition of over 60 nations against ISIS for a year, but key differences on a new transition phase aimed at ending the four-and-a-half-year-old Syrian conflict have prevented Russia from joining the coalition.

Australia has carried out nine air strikes on two targets since joining the air campaign in September.

Since October 2, 2014, Australia has flown 434 air strike missions targeting ISIS over Iraq and Syria.

TRTWorld and agencies