Washington | The United States and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for safe operations of flights over Syria between their aircrew as they carry out separate air strikes against the Islamic State in the Middle East country, the Pentagon said.
This is part of the efforts of the two countries to minimise the risk of inflight incidents among coalition and Russian aircraft operating in Syrian air space. The MoU includes specific safety protocols for aircrew to follow, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
These protocols include maintaining professional airmanship at all times, the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a communication line on the ground. The US and Russia will form a working group to discuss any implementation issues, he said. Cook, however, said the agreement does not establish zones of cooperation, intelligence sharing or any sharing of target information in Syria.
The discussions through which the MoU was developed do not constitute the US cooperation or support for Russia’s policy or actions in Syria, he said. The US continues to believe that Russia’s strategy in Syria is counterproductive and their support for the Assad regime will only make Syria’s civil war worse, Cook told reporters.
The US will continue to focus on advancing its interests in Syria and will continue its efforts to go after ISIL, which poses a threat to America and the international community, he said. We will continue to support a moderate opposition that is essential for a political resolution in Syria. We will continue to be the single largest donor in addressing the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and beyond its borders. Unlike Russia, in those efforts we are joined by a coalition of 65 partners, he said.
Responding to questions, Cook said now that an MoU has been signed, Russians need to abide by these flight safety protocols that they’ve now agreed to avoid miscalculation and misunderstanding. We do not agree with the Russians on their strategy in Syria. At a minimum, we can agree with them on the safe operations of flights over Syria between our air crews and theirs, he said.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman John Kirby alleged that Russia continues to support the Assad regime. If you take a look at the targets they continue to hit and the support they’re giving to the Syrian regime on the ground, it can only leave one to conclude that they are intent on propping up the Assad regime, which is only going to exacerbate the conflict, inflame sectarian the tensions and lead to more extremism there and elsewhere in the region, he said. Kirby said the signing of the memorandum does nothing to assuage the US concerns about Russian military activities in Syria.
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