US, Russian officials to talk about air safety in Syria

US Defence Secretary says Russia must abide by basic safety procedures in skies over Syria

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A picture taken on October 5, 2015 shows Russian Air Force pilots and technicians checking a Russian Sukhoi Su-30 jet fighter at the Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia

United States and Russia will hold third round of talks regarding air safety protocols in Syria, in order to prevent a conflict, as both parties are currently conducting air strikes in Syria. According to the plan, “updated proposals” will be discussed during a news conference on Wednesday.

Russian Defence Ministry said it has updated its proposals, which are aimed at reaching an agreement with the US over Syria and they were ready for a “third video conference.”

US Defence Minister, Ashton Carter said on Tuesday even if the White House continues to disagree with Russia's Syrian policy, they should be able to at least agree on making sure that the pilots are safe as possible.

“Russia must act professionally in the skies over Syria and abide by basic safety procedures,” he added.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday that he was hoping that US and Russia will reach an understanding, during the talks which will be held in the respective capitals, he also added that one or more "contact groups" will be formed from interested countries supporting the talks.

He said that he would hold talks in Moscow and then in Washington, as violence escalated in Syria it was“urgent to hold dialogue” between the Syrian government and opposition groups. 

Plan to hold third round of talks came after US military said US and Russian fighter jets flew within miles of each other on Saturday during parallel operations.

Ahead of the new talks, Ashton Carter urged Russia to change its “failing strategy” in Syria and criticized the Russian military strategy in Syria as being “wrong-headed and strategically short-sighted”.

He said Moscow’s activity in Syria was a fundamental mistake, because Russia was attempting to fight ISIS, while at the same time it was not working to promote a political transition.

US expects to reach an agreement with Russia, but at the same time, US has said it was not able to support or approve Russia’s recent actions in Syria.

Russia began conducting air strikes in war torn Syria on September, claiming that its warplanes are targeting ISIS positions in Syria. Russian President, Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that the air strikes were aimed at helping Syrian President, Bashar al Assad.

However, the US State Department spokesman, John Kirby has stated last week during a press briefing that only small part of the assaults were targeting ISIS.

"Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIS and not Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists," Kirby said.

"They’ve been largely against opposition groups, groups that want a better future for Syria and don’t want to see the Assad regime stay in power."

US and Russian talks on air safety will be held on Wednesday, but nothing has been finalized yet Carter stated during a press conference in Boston following a meeting, which was also attended by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister, Marise Payne.

He stated that Australian pilots recently have began flying with US in Syria to fight against ISIS and he thanked Australia for expanding its air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

TRTWorld and agencies