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Pentagon Seeks To Cool Tensions With Russia After Clash Over Jet Downing

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-ranking U.S. military officer, said on June 19 that the United States is working to reestablish communications with Russia's military that Moscow said it had severed after an American jet shot down a Syrian warplane. The so-called "deconfliction" hotline in Syria has been a vital tool in protecting both sides' forces as the risk of accidental clashes has increased with both sides conducting separate campaigns in the same increasingly crowded territory. "We will work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to reestablish deconfliction" and try to lower tensions, said General Joseph Dunford. "The worst thing any of us could do right now is address this with hyperbole," he said. Dunford said he is focused on ensuring the United States can achieve its main purpose in Syria -- the defeat of the Islamic State extremist group. "The Russian Federation has indicated that their purpose in Syria, like ours, is to defeat ISIS, and we'll see if that's true here in the coming hours," he said. Russia's Defense Ministry earlier said it was suspending the hotline, which it said the Pentagon failed to use before it downed a Syrian Su-22 bomber on June 18. Despite Russia's contention, Dunford said the hotline had been used "over the last few hours." Russia also warned on June 19 that its air-defense systems would begin tracking all U.S.-led coalition aircraft in central Syria, prompting the Pentagon to move some of its planes. "We have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting [Islamic State] forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battle space," Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the United States is "going to do what we can to protect our interests," adding that Washington would keep an open line of communication with the Russians. "The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn't help anybody," he said. Moscow has previously threatened to scrap the deconfliction line, after an April 7 U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack against civilians. But that suspension proved to be brief. The line has been a life-saving though imperfect tool since it was set up soon after Russia entered Syria's civil war in late 2015 to prop up President Bashar al-Assad. The hotline connects U.S. military officers at an operations center in Qatar and their Russian counterparts operating in Syria. Following the warning from Russia, Australia announced it was suspending air strikes into Syria "as a precautionary measure." "A decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course," Australia's Department of Defense (ADF) said, adding its operations in neighboring Iraq would continue as part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the IS group. With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters Source: tensions-russia-after-clash-over-syrian-jet-downing- deconfliction-hotline/28565769.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. _______________________________________________________________________________ US working to restore 'deconfliction' line with Russia over Syria In-Depth Coverage Iran Press TV Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:3PM The top American general says the US is working to restore a communications line with Russia intended to avoid mid-air collisions over Syria, after Moscow cut it off following the US downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday. "We'll work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction," US General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday at an event sponsored by the National Press Club in Washington. Dunford said there was still communications between a US air operations center in Qatar and Russian forces in Syria. "We have an effective link between our operations center in Qatar and the Russian Federation on the ground in Syria. That link is still ongoing here this morning," he said. Dunford said the US has "worked through a number of issues" with Russia and that the a deconfliction link set up by both sides "has worked very well over the past eight months." The deconfliction arrangement was first established with Russia in 2015 to avoid unnecessary conflict and miscommunication in the military movements of US-led coalition and Russian forces in Syria. Moscow suspended the arrangement after a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian fighter jet in Raqqah on Sunday. The deconfliction line between the two countries had first been suspended by Russia in April after the United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian military airfield. The line was re-established in May. Russia also warned on Monday that it would treat US-led coalition jets in Syria that fly west of the Euphrates River as targets. The Russian military involvement in Syria began in September 2015 after an official request by the Syrian government for military assistance against terrorist groups. Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011. Over the past few months, Syrian forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements, who have lately increased their acts of violence across the country following a series of defeats on the ground.

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