|The United States and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes measures so their pilots steer clear of each other as they conduct separate bombing campaigns in Syria, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
It’s a significant step that follows several instances in which Russian and US planes or drones have come close to each other, raising the nightmare prospect of a mid-air collision or some other dangerous encounter.
Speaking to reporters in the Pentagon, press secretary Peter Cook said the document had been signed earlier in the day and had taken effect immediately.
“There’s a series of protocols in place that effectively are intended to avoid any sort of risk of a mid-air incident between our air crews and Russian air crews,” Cook said.
“If they follow these protocols, we should not have the risk of engagement with Russian air crews over Syria.”
Moscow also reported that both countries had signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU), which boils down to some fairly standard air safety protocols.
Cook said these include guidelines on professional airmanship, as well as the use of radio frequencies and the creation of a secondary line of communication on the ground.
However, he was quick to stress that the understanding did not signal broader agreement with Russia’s strategy on Syria.
“The MOU does not establish zones of cooperation, intelligence-sharing or any sharing of target information in Syria,” he said.
“We continue to believe that Russia’s strategy in Syria is counter-productive and their support for the Assad regime will only make Syria’s civil war worse.”
The United States is leading a 60-plus member coalition allegedly targeting ISIL Takfiri group (so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant) in Iraq and Syria and has been carrying out frequent raids for more than a year.
Under the request of the Syrian government, Russia also is launching an air campaign against ISIL and other terrorists.
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