US, Russia spar over maintaining military hotline in Syria

Apr 08, 2017, 07:20
US, Russia spar over maintaining military hotline in Syria

Officials said Russian officials called the US earlier on Thursday after seeing media reports that missile strikes were under discussion, to make sure the Americans knew there were Russians on the Syrian base.

But the senior US military officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, said U.S.

Senior U.S. military officials say Russian Federation has agreed to maintain a hotline aimed at preventing midair collisions in Syria. The response that demonstrates Moscow's readiness to defy Washington and could even put the two nuclear superpowers on a course toward military confrontation.

On the U.S. side, it is run out of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at the vast al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command. The hotline's primary intent is to ensure Russian planes conducting combat missions in Syria's skies don't stumble into an accident or confrontation with aircraft flown by the US -led coalition fighting an Islamic State insurgency in the north of the country.

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Mr Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch ally of the Syrian leader, regarded the United States action as "aggression against a sovereign nation" on a "made-up pretext" and a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq. The U.S. says that arsenal was tapped for a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

Russian Federation joined the war on Assad's behalf in 2015, action that decisively turned the momentum of the conflict in the Syrian government's favour.

"President Putin believes that the US strikes on Syria represent an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of worldwide law under a far-fetched pretext", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement.

Acting in response to the US' missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase, a Russian military spokesperson said Moscow was closing a safety coordination channel with Washington. The U.S. missile strike could make it all but impossible to improve relations.

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Russian Federation also has important military facilities in Syria that could be put at risk if Assad is removed from power, a goal of Western powers that had recently been put on the back burner because of the focus on fighting Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.

The attack - the first United States strike against the Syrian regime - was in response to a chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed more than 70 civilians, including 20 children in Idlib province on Tuesday.

Trump has frequently called for improved relations with Russian Federation which were strained under Obama, but the USA president said action had to be taken against Assad.

Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.

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