Russia and the United States have signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ today according to Pentagon officials.
Flight safety protocols have been established between Russian and American planes, flying over Syria.
The safety measures will help pilots and aircraft to avoid each other while conducting separate bombing campaigns in Syria.
The Guardian reports:
The Pentagon press secretary, Peter Cook, said the document was signed earlier in the day and took immediate effect.
“There’s a series of protocols in place that effectively are intended to avoid any sort of risk of a midair 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.
“With today’s signatures, the memorandum of understanding is now in effect,” Cook told reporters on Tuesday. “That was signed a short time ago, earlier today.”
Separately, Russian media reported that the memorandum had been signed by officials in Moscow and the US.
“The memorandum contains a number of rules and restrictions aimed at preventing incidents between American and Russian planes,” the Russian deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, said, according to Ria-Novosti.
The Pentagon says Russia had initially asked for “deconfliction” talks with the US after Moscow began bombing Syria on 30 September in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
US defense officials were furious after they only got a vague warning from Moscow about an hour before Russia began its bombing campaign.
Cook said the memorandum establishes several protocols aimed at maintaining 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 Syria strategy.
“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 counterproductive and their support for the Assad regime will only make Syria’s civil war worse.”
The US is leading a 60-plus-member coalition targeting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria and has been carrying out frequent raids for more than a year.
Russia also claims to be targeting Isis and other “terrorists” but the Pentagon says it is hitting non-Isis rebels fighting government forces loyal to Assad.
Earlier Tuesday, a CNN report said Russian planes had twice in the last two weeks flown very close to coalition planes – within 500ft, in one instance.
“The Russians need to abide by these flight safety protocols that they have now agreed to because we don’t want miscalculations or misunderstanding,” Cook said when asked about the report.
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