Russia and US call urgent talks after Syria strikes
United Nations : Russia and United States have agreed to call urgent military talks to head off the risk of clashes between their forces, after Moscow’s dramatic entrance into the Syrian war.
Senior US officials expressed alarm after Russian warplanes began their first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.
The Americans accused Russia of striking moderate rebel factions fighting Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime under cover of their claimed assault on the Islamic State group.
And they complained the US-led coalition already fighting its own air war against the jihadists had only been given a heads-up by a Russian general in Baghdad one hour before bombing began.
But, after sharp public comments in Washington and the United Nations, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov put a brave face on the dispute.
Appearing together on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday, they said they would hold “de-confliction” talks and had drawn up proposals to relaunch a Syrian political peace process.
“We agreed on the imperative of as soon as possible — perhaps even as soon as tomorrow, but as soon as possible — having a military to military de-confliction discussion,” Kerry said.
Lavrov agreed their talks had been useful and both men said they would take their ideas for the political process back to their respective presidents, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the US’s Barack Obama.
But the narrow agreement to seek a mechanism to avoid accidental encounters between Russian and US-led forces could not disguise the deep divisions Moscow’s actions had revealed.
Both Moscow and Damascus presented the operation as targeting Islamic State militants, an idea disputed by US officials.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said: “It does appear they were in areas where there were probably not ISIL forces.”
And he warned that Russia’s arrival in the bloody four-year-long civil war would “backfire” and only serve to prolong the conflict.
Kerry told the United Nations Security Council that there would be “grave concern” in Washington if it turned out the targets were opposition fighter and not IS or Al-Qaeda, as claimed.