Russian air strikes: US and Russia scheduled to meet 'as soon as possible' to avoid clashes over Syrian airspace

Moscow claimed on Wednesday it was bombing Isis-held positions in Syria 

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The Independent Online

Russia and the United States will hold urgent talks in an attempt to avoid clashing in the air over Syria.

Top diplomats are scheduled to meet “as soon as possible” after Moscow defence chiefs claimed Russian planes had carried out twenty missions over Syria against Isis positions.

The Russian claims have been contradicted by US officials, who said they feared the aircraft were targeting rebel positions fighting president Bashar al-Assad rather than the extreme Islamic group.

Mr Assad and Mr Putin are longstanding allies, with the Russian leader recently urging the United Nations delegation to extend an olive branch to the Syrian dictator.

Fears are growing that US fighter planes – currently performing missions against Isis over both Syria and Iraq – could disastrously cross paths with Russian aeroplanes.

US authorities claimed on Wednesday they were informed of Russian strikes just an hour before they took place.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, admitted there was a need to "establish channels of communication to avoid any unintended incidents".

His claims were echoed by US counterpart John Kerry, who said talks will be held "as soon as possible" – potentially on Thursday.

Mr Kerry is said to have “grave concerns” Russian forces are not targeting Isis positions.

His concerns were rubbished by Moscow on Thursday.

The Russian defence ministry claims eight Isis positions were destroyed in the last strike, although it refused to detail exact locations.  

Mr Lavrov further claims Russian planes were “exclusively” targeting Isis positions, adding “rumours” stating otherwise were “groundless”.

It is the latest armed intervention into a conflict raging for more than four years. An estimated 250,000 people have been killed as Syrian rebels attempt to overthrow Mr Assad.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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