US, Russia sign memorandum on air safety in Syria

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Senior U.S. and Russian defense officials signed a memorandum of understanding Oct. 20 on air safety in Syria, the Pentagon’s press secretary said.
The MOU is aimed at minimizing the risk of in-flight incidents among coalition and Russian aircraft operating in Syrian airspace, Peter Cook said at a Pentagon’s news conference.
The MOU went into effect with the signing, he said.
Cook said the MOU includes specific safety protocols for aircrews to follow, including maintaining professional airmanship at all times, the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a communication line on the ground.
The U.S. and Russia will form a working group to discuss any implementation issues that follow, he added.
The MOU does not establish zones of cooperation, intelligence sharing or any sharing of target information in Syria, Cook said.
“The discussions through which this MOU was developed do not constitute U.S. cooperation or support for Russia’s policy or actions in Syria,” he said. “We continue to believe that Russia’s strategy in Syria is counterproductive and their support for the Assad regime will only make Syria’s civil war worse.”
The U.S., Cook said, will continue to focus on advancing its interests in Syria, which include fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and supporting a moderate opposition. The moderate opposition is essential for a political resolution in Syria, he said.
The U.S. will continue to be the “single largest donor in addressing the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and beyond its borders,” he said.
Cook said that unlike Russia, the U.S. is supported by a coalition of 65 partners in its efforts.