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Russia receives coordinated memo from Pentagon on safe flights in Syria

October 20, 2015, 19:08 UTC+3

The presence of various aircraft in Syria’s airspace has increased considerably

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MOSCOW, October 20. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has received a memorandum approved by the Pentagon on preventing air incidents in Syria, Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.

"Literally this morning, we received a memorandum approved by our American colleagues on preventing air incidents in the Syrian Arab Republic," the spokesman said.

"We undoubtedly consider the signing of such a document as an important step of practical significance," the spokesman said.

Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Col.-Gen. Andrei Kartapolov said last Friday that the Russian and US military had agreed all technical issues on safe flights over Syria.

Before that, the Russian and US military held three video conferences on the preparation of the relevant memorandum.

More than 30 aircraft present in one area over Syria of late 

Konashenkov said the presence of various aircraft in Syria’s airspace increased noticeably of late and up to 30 aircraft may be present simultaneously in one area, which considerably increases flight safety risks.

"Of late, the presence of various aircraft in the airspace over Syria increased considerably. There are military transport planes, combat aircraft and drones of various size, including attack drones," he said.

Konashenkov stressed that the Russian air group was coordinating each of its sorties with the Syrian air traffic control service.

"All other manned and unmanned military aircraft are present in Syrian airspace without prior coordination and with transponders switched off," Konashenkov said. "This certainly worsens flight risks."

He recalled that Russia has repeatedly declared its readiness to cooperate in ensuring flight safety over all countries, interested in the early elimination of international terrorism in Syria.

"I would like to recall that the Russian and Turkish defense ministries had established a direct telephone line for preventing unintentional air incidents over Syria. Also, such a cooperation format exists between the command post of the Israeli Air Force and the Russian flight control centre at Hmeimim in Syria," he added.

US promised to inform its partners in Syria about safe flight rules agreed with Russia

The Russian Defense Ministry considers it necessary to organise interaction in rescuing pilots in force majeure circumstances during flights in Syria.

"Not even every hour, but every minute counts in this situation and their [pilots’] lives will depend on coordinated actions in such rescue operations," Konashenkov said, adding that the rescue operation should be conducted for pilots "from any country."

"Unfortunately, the American colleagues have not yet realized all the seriousness of this issue," he said.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said previously that the United States had rejected Russia’s proposal to conduct joint operations for the rescue of pilots of aircraft downed in Syria. According to him, Washington "has been strongly against" the word "cooperation" and so far limited the interaction to contacts between the military in the sphere of flight safety.

Russia has invited the United States to enter into wide cooperation over Syria, but Washington still looks unprepared for that, Antonov said on Saturday. "We are interested in cooperation with all countries without an exception. We established a direct communication line with Turkey. We’ve held consultations with Israel and stepped up contacts with the Persian Gulf states. We are in talks with the U.S. partners over an agreement on ensuring the safety of flights over Syria. But that is not enough. We have proposed far wider cooperation. Washington is still unprepared for it," Antonov said.

Within the framework of interaction with countries in the Middle East a joint information centre has been created in Baghdad to coordinate action among the staffs of the Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian and Russian armed forces.

"We are constantly in touch with the Syrian army. All of our strikes are surgical and delivered with precision exclusively against Islamic State infrastructures. We have not hit any other military or civilian facilities, let alone communities and mosques, contrary to what some western media have been claiming," Antonov said.

The international US-led coalition started making airstrikes on terrorists in Syria in September 2014 without the consent of official Damascus.

Since September 2015, Russia has been dealing pinpoint strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria at the request of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s combat aircraft at Syria’s Khmeimim air base numbers more than 50 helicopters and planes. On October 7, several ships of the Russian Navy in the land-locked Caspian Sea hundreds of miles away from Syria attacked the Islamic State terrorist organization with long-range cruise missiles.

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