Russia Says It Agrees With U.S. To Improve Military Coordination In Syria
June 19, 2016
Russia agreed to improve coordination with the United States on military operations in Syria, following blunt accusations from the Pentagon that Moscow had targeted U.S.-backed opposition forces.
Russia's Defense Ministry made the announcement on June 19 after military officials from both countries spoke by video conference.
In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook called the video conference "extraordinary" and said U.S. officials expressed strong concerns about the June 16 attack on forces at the At-Tanf garrison.
He said in a statement June 18 that the Russian air strikes came even after U.S. attempts to inform Russian forces and created what he said were safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the area targeted was 300 kilometers away from locations the United States had designated as controlled by legitimate opposition forces.
And he insisted that the Russian Air Force had given advance warning of its ground targets.
Also June 18, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made an unannounced visit to Syria to discuss military cooperation "to fight against terrorist organizations on Syrian soil."
Russia launched its air campaign in Syria last September, seeking to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled back some warplanes in March in what he described as a move to help encourage peace talks, but the military has maintained a strong presence at an air base in Latakia Province in northwest Syria.
A U.S.- and Russian-brokered cease-fire that began on February 27 helped reduce hostilities for the first time in the five-year conflict, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas, particularly around Aleppo.
U.S. officials have said Russia has made little effort to heed U.S. calls to differentiate between terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Nusra fighting Assad's forces and more moderate groups backed by the United States and other allies.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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