Talks on Syria Air Safety to Take Place Between US and Russia


Russia has agreed to resume talks with the US regarding the subject of air safety over Syria during the bombing campaigns that are taking place, according to the Pentagon.  The talks are likely to take place ‘as soon as the weekend’ according to press secretary Peter Cook.

There have been growing concerns that there could be an accidental clash between forces of the two countries as both conduct their separate bombing campaigns over the country.  NATO allies have also been alarmed by the Russian jets that have been violating Turkish air space.

Video conference

Officials from the countries conducted talks on air safety across a video conferences on October 1st but the US has been unhappy that it hasn’t spoken to Moscow since then.

Earlier in the week the Pentagon said that they had needed to carry out at least one ‘safe separation’ manoeuvre to stop a US jet getting too close to a Russian aircraft in Syrian airspace.  The incident was said to have happened after October 1st but a specific date wasn’t given.

Talks are likely to deal with how much separation there should be between aircraft from the two countries and even what language and radio frequencies that the crews should be using for communication.

Russian targets

Russia has said that it is bombing the position of the so-called Islamic State (IS) but there are concerns that they are in fact bombing the rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

Reports on Friday also said that IS forces had seized a number of villages close to the northern city of Aleppo from rival insurgents.  Journalists have reported that the Russian air strikes appear to be hitting mostly Syrian opposition forces that pose a threat to the Syrian government.

These Russian strikes have weakened these groups and allow IS to push forward and take new territory.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Russia was running a ‘fundamentally flawed’ operation in the country which would ‘inflame the civil war and therefore extremism’.  But Moscow denies it has been hitting mainly non-IS targets this week.

Russian has also launched cruise missiles against targets in Syria from warships in the Caspian Sea some 930 miles away.

Mr Carter added that there were indications four of these missiles crashed in Iran before they reached their targets in Syria because they had malfunctioned.  Russia denied that any missiles had malfunctioned, instead insisting that all 26 had hits their targets.

Arming rebels

The US also announced this week that it would stop efforts to train the new Syrian rebel forces and instead shift focus and equipment to existing forces.  It has a $500 million program to train and equip 5,400 fighters this year and some 15,000 next year.  But it emerged last month that only four or five of these were in Syria.

It also emerged that US-trained rebels had handed vehicles and munitions over to rebels.  A senior official said the program was on ‘pause’ but could be restarted in the future.


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