Russia, U.S. Sign Memorandum on Military Flights over Syria*
Russia has received an agreed memorandum from the United States on the prevention of air incidents over Syria, the Russian Defence Ministry said Tuesday.
“This morning we received a memorandum agreed by our U.S. colleagues on the prevention of air incidents in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters.
Moscow hopes that the memorandum will concern all countries taking part in the US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIL. The U.S. vowed to share the safety rules with all parties operating in Syria, Konashenkov added.
“We believe that the signing of such a document is an important step that has practical importance.”
The Russian Defence Ministry said Tuesday that the memorandum regulates flights of all aircraft over Syria, including drones.
The agreement between the U.S. and Russia on the flights over Syria shows high potential for cooperation between the two countries, including in the fight against terrorism, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday.
According to him, “the document is of great practical importance” since it regulates the activities of manned and unmanned aircraft in the Syrian airspace.
“The memorandum contains a set of rules and regulations that aim to prevent incidents between Russian and U.S. aviation.”
Antonov noted that Washington vowed to convene these rules to all members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, adding that the coalition’s pilots will act in accordance with the agreement. As soon as the deal comes into force, round-the-clock communication channels will be established between Russian and U.S. military authorities, he said.
However, the signing of the memorandum does not change Russia’s “principled stance” concerning the fact that the Russian Aerospace Force acts in Syria in accordance with the international law and at the request of the country’s legitimate authority, while the U.S.-led coalition does not, Antonov said.
“The United States and the anti-ISIL coalition led by the country use force on the territory of Syria without a request from its government and without a UN Security Council decision.”
Syrian Airspace Overcrowded
According to the Russian defence ministry’s spokesman, the presence of different aircraft in Syria has increased recently. There are sometimes over 30 aircraft in one area at the same time that poses threat to the safety of flights over Syria.
“These are military transport aircraft, combat aircraft, unmanned vehicles of various sizes, including unmanned fighting aerial vehicles.”
He noted that the Russian air group coordinates its activities with the Syrian air traffic control service concerning every flight of Russian aircraft.
“The rest of manned and unmanned military aircraft are flying in the Syrian airspace without approval and without transponders turned on.”
It is also necessary to establish cooperation with Pentagon on rescuing pilots in Syria, the Russian defence ministry’s spokesman said.
“First of all, this concerns the establishment of operational cooperation in regard to rescuing pilots from any country in case of any force majeure over Syria. Unfortunately, our American colleagues have yet to show understanding of the seriousness of this issue.”
Russia has repeatedly expressed readiness to cooperate on the flights safety issues with all countries interested in the elimination of international terrorism in Syria, he emphasized.
“Let me remind you that Russian and Turkish military departments organized a hotline aimed to prevent unintentional air incidents in the skies over Syria.”
Moreover, such a co-ordination exists between Israeli and Russian Air Forces’ command centres.