‘Progress’ in US-Russia talks over Syria air safety: Pentagon

About 100 people gathering outside the Russian embassy to protest against President Vladamir Putin and his country's involvement in Syria on Oct 9, 2015 in Washington, DC.
About 100 people gathering outside the Russian embassy to protest against President Vladamir Putin and his country's involvement in Syria on Oct 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US and Russia made “progress” in discussions on Saturday designed to avoid accidents between them in the increasingly crowded air space over war-torn Syria, the Pentagon said, and more talks are planned.

Washington expressed alarm this week after Moscow failed to quickly answer proposals made during previous talks, even as Russia launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea and repeatedly violated Turkish air space.

“The discussions were professional and focused narrowly on the implementation of specific safety procedures,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a statement.

“Progress was made during the talks and the US agreed to another discussion with Russia in the near future. The video conference lasted approximately 90 minutes.”

Cook disclosed few details, except to say that the talks were between US defence officials and their counterparts in Moscow and focused on “steps that can be taken” by Russian and US-led coalition aircraft “to promote safe flight operations over Syria.”

US officials were furious after Russia only gave them a vague, verbal “heads-up” about an hour before Moscow launched its bombing campaign over Syria on Sept 30.

The two countries had “deconfliction” talks the next day via video conference, aimed at ensuring Russian warplanes did not cross paths with drones and US-led coalition jets targeting the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

Russian planes have flown near a US drone, officials say, and the US military has had to reroute some flights to avoid any close calls.