Russia, US jets conduct joint safety training in Syria

US and Russian jets held joint training above Syria after two countries agreed to prevent accidental crashes during their campaigns above war-torn country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian ground staff members work on a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria, October 22, 2015

United States and Russian fighter jets held joint training on Tuesday in Syria to ensure the safety protocols established the memorandum of understanding, said a Pentagon defense official ahead of UN talks set to be held on Wednesday in Moscow to end war in the country.

The official said, “the test was conducted in the skies of the south central Syria and lasted about 3 minutes”and added "This test was a prudent measure solely to ensure that, in the event coalition aircraft encounter a Russian aircraft during operations in Syria, one of the established and agreed upon modes of communication in the agreement functioned."

Officials from Washington and Moscow signed a deconfliction agreement on October 20 after a series of talks on air safety above the skies of Syria as both countries continue air campaigns in the country.

According to the agreement, US and Russian pilots would keep away from each other during their air campaigns in Syria.

On September 30, one of the most important international backers of Bashar al Assad, Russia intervened in Syria and launched air strikes against opposition targets while a US led coalition has been conducting air strikes on DAESH positions since December 2014.

According to a former officer from Syrian army, Russian air strikes have strengthened Assad’s presence in Syria. Thabet Mohammad said, "Russia has so far conducted more than 1,200 rounds of air raids in Syria, striking over 1,000 militant positions. That means almost 30 to 40 percent of their facilities have been destroyed".

A man comforts a woman whose relatives were killed, at a site hit by what activists were airstrikes carried out by Russian air force in Maasran town, in the southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 7, 2015

However, Russia has frequently come under fire over their activity in Syria in where their jets have been targeting civilian areas since they began conducting air strikes in September, claiming that its warplanes have the purpose of targeting DAESH positions.

The US State Department spokesman, John Kirby has criticised Russia during a news conference in October saying that 90 percent of the air strikes that the Russian government held in Syria were not against DAESH and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.

US Defence Minister, Ashton Carter has also stated that Russian military strategy in Syria was “failing”, “wrong headed” and “strategically short-sighted” and has urged Moscow to change it.

He said, their agreement on air safety in Syria to prevent possible conflicts wouldn’t mean that they support or approve Russian actions in the country.

On Tuesday, a senior military official Andrei Kartapolov said 24 targets were bombed by their jets using coordinates supplied by “opposition representatives”.

US officials stated that their jets and Russian jets were communicating in the skies of Syria to ensure air safety.

Officials from both of the countries attended the Vienna summit last week as well as other top officials from 17 other countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in order to discuss the future of Syria where more than 250,000 people have lost their lives during the 4 year war. The Syrian opposition was not invited to the meeting.

TRTWorld and agencies