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Air Force Chief: US unlikely to deliver joint air strikes with Russia in Syria

June 15, 18:23 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
We still are operating through the memorandum of understanding, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh said
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WASHINGTON, June 15. /TASS/. Chances are slim that the United States will start delivering joint air strikes with Russia in Syria, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh told TASS on Wednesday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

"Right now I don't envision that," Welsh said answering a question on whether US will transition to joint air strikes with Russia in Syria. "If there was that discussion, the decision that came out was not to do joint air strikes," he added.

"We still are operating through the memorandum of understanding," he noted. "We are still doing the daily coordination from the operations center with the Russian military. That seems to be doing fairly well in terms of deconfliction," Welsh continued. "It's something I know that General CQ Brown there pays a lot of attention to every day as he tries to keep air operations running. Because deconfliction, communication, the ability to pick up a phone and say ‘what's going on’ is immensely helpful in an effort to avoid any kind of misunderstanding," he stressed.

"So, we'll just continue to do what we've been doing, it's been fairly successful to date. But I don't see joint operations any time in a near future," Welsh concluded.

Refusal to pool efforts will only escalate conflict

Meanwhile, Sergey Rudskoy, the chief of the main operations department of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, said on May 27 that the United States’ refusal to pool efforts with Russia to repel militants in Syria will only escalate the conflict. He reminded that on May 20 the Russian side invited US partners to pool efforts to deliver strikes at positions of Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria.

"The answer we received from the United States, despite the positive assessment of our measures, envisages no joint actions against terrorist organizations, which may entail further escalation of the armed conflict," he said.

The proposal on joint air strikes against terrorist in Syria was voiced by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. Pentagon however turned down the invitation and refused to coordinate actions with the Russian defense ministry.

Issue not removed from agenda

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the end of May that Moscow is not removing from agenda the prospect of possible joint airstrikes with the United States at terrorists in Syria.

"We have not rejected this prospect," the high-ranking diplomat said. "From the very beginning we said that May 25 is not an ultimatum date, this time was set judging from operative situation that was seen in a whole number of areas in Syria, first of all in Aleppo," he said.

"Therefore in the interests of advancing the process towards stabilization certain actions of Russia’s Aerospace Forces on suppressing gunmen of Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist organization banned in Russia) were somehow delayed but we have not rejected this prospect, we have not given it up," Ryabkov said.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

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