US, Russia to hold talks over Syria
The United States and Russia on Tuesday agreed to reopen talks about how to avoid conflict in the skies over Syria, where both countries are conducting airstrikes.
The Russian Defense Ministry reportedly extended the offer, and the Washington Post quoted Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s deputy defense minister, as saying the talks should not just focus on avoiding mid-air collisions and hostile encounters, but also on a possible Russian partnership in the US-led coalition that has conducted bombing missions against the Islamic State for more than a year.
“We look forward to the formal response from the Russians and learning the details,” the Post quoted Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook as saying in response. “We stand ready to meet again to continue our earlier discussions as soon as possible.”
Until Tuesday, Moscow reportedly ignored US requests to meet and discuss how to avoid conflict following an initial video conference last week that had limited results.
The agreement comes the same day NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow of intentionally violating Turkey’s airspace on Saturday and Monday during Russian sorties against rebel forces in northwestern Syria.
NATO leaders are set to meet in Brussels Thursday to discuss ways in which to respond to the violations, which Russian officials say were accidental.
Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30, saying it is combating IS militants and other “terrorists,” but US officials accuse Moscow of propping up its regional ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, by attacking moderate rebels. Activists and Western leaders say few IS positions have been struck in the attacks, which have reportedly killed several civilians.
By Fred Lambert