The Pentagon said it would begin talks Thursday with Russian military officials on ways to avoid U.S. and Russian forces firing on each other in Syria as tensions escalate over Russian airstrikes that apparently are serving to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The talks, to be held by video teleconference, come a day after Russian fighter jets began bombing in western Syria.
Russia’s defense ministry said that over the past 24 hours it had damaged or destroyed 12 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State militant group, including a command center and ammunition depots.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Russians appeared to have targeted areas that did not include IS militants. He complained that Moscow did not use formal channels to give advance notice of its airstrikes to Washington, which has been conducting its own airstrikes in Syria against IS for more than a year.
Carter said the Russians should not be supporting the Assad government and their military moves are “doomed to fail.”
The U.S. defense chief also said the Obama administration was open to holding direct talks with the Russians on “deconflicting” their military operations in Syria, or arranging ways to avoid firing upon each other or creating unintended incidents in the air.
“Our goals for this meeting are the following: to facilitate the flow of information between coalition forces and Russian elements that will help us maintain the safety of our personnel in the region, which is critical; to ensure that any additional Russian actions do not interfere with our coalition’s efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, and to clarify that broader U.S. security commitments in the region remain unchanged,” Carter said.
Conducting the talks on the U.S. side are Elissa Slotkin, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, the director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It was not immediately clear who would be speaking for the Russians.
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CCTV’s Hendrik Sybrandy filed this report.