USA TODAY US Edition
RUSSIA, U.S. SET FLIGHT DEAL
Mitigates danger over Syrian skies
The Pentagon and Russian military have reached an agreement to avoid conflict among pilots and drones flying over the battlefields of Syria, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook announced Tuesday.
There have been “a handful of incidents” involving Russian warplanes flying too close to American aircraft and drones, Cook said. Russian jets have also strayed over the border into Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance. Turkey and NATO have objected to the incursions, which Russia claims were inadvertent.
Russia began flying bombing runs this month from a base in Syria, most of them targeting opponents of the regime of Bashar Assad, according to the Pentagon. U.S. warplanes have been flying missions against fighters from the Islamic State. Russia supports Assad and operates bases in Syria; the White House and Pentagon say Assad must go in order to resolve the civil war there that has killed more than 200,000 people.
“These protocols include maintaining professional airmanship at all times, the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a communication line on the ground,” Cook said. The agreement does not include intelligence sharing, nor does it “constitute U.S. cooperation or support for Russia’s policy or actions in Syria.”
Russia has asked that the “protocols” for safe flight not be disclosed publicly, Cook said. The goal is that the Russian pilots “maintain safe distance.”