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NEW YORK, January 21. /TASS/. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has spoken twice in recent months to his Russian counterpart, the head of Russia’s Chiefs of Staff Valery Gerasimov, tackling a wide range of issues, the New York Times (NYT) online newspaper said on Wednesday, citing the general, who spoke to reporters travelling with him to a meeting of the chiefs of staff of the militaries of NATO countries.
The NYT said that Dunford "had spoken twice in recent months with his Russian counterpart, Valery Gerasimov, on a ‘wide range of issues’."
At the same time, the United States maintains the right to conduct military operations in Syria separately from Russia, he said adding "we are not doing anything now that is characterized as coordinating" in Syria.
However, Dunford confirmed that air strikes of Russia’s Aerospace Force in Syria had helped the country’s governmental forces to partially regain control over some of its territory and that the Syrian army was capable of consolidating and strengthening positions in some areas where opposition groups had previously carried out offensives.
Syria’s government was "in a worse place before, and the regime is in a better place now," the US general said.
Russia’s aviation grouping has been delivering air strikes against the Islamic State terrorist organization in Syria since September 30 at the request of Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
From November 17, the Russian aviation grouping in Syria switched to delivering massive strikes against militants, including with the involvement of strategic bombers. As the Russian Defense Ministry reported, Russia’s air grouping has focused on destroying terrorist-controlled oil extraction, storage, transportation and refining facilities.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has also been delivering air strikes against militants in Syria and Iraq
Moscow and Washington earlier signed a memorandum on safe flights over Syria to prevent any air incidents between warplanes of the Russian air group and the US-led coalition.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has numerously urged foreign counterparts to exchange information on targets in Syria but the Pentagon has repeatedly said that it won’t provide reconnaissance data to Russia as long as Moscow supports Assad.
Meanwhile, Russia and France agreed in late November on coordinating their activities against terrorists.