Written by Ranee Mohamed
01 Oct, 2015 | 5:57 am
The US and Russian military will hold talks “as soon as possible” to avoid clashing in Syria, the countries’ top diplomats say. Russian defence officials say their aircraft carried out about 20 missions against the so-called Islamic State group (IS) on Wednesday.
But the US expressed fears the targets were non-IS opponents of Russia’s ally, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The US is targeting IS with air strikes in both Syria and Iraq.
Nato said there had been little co-ordination by Russia with US-led forces against IS, also known as Isil. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there was a need to “establish channels of communication to avoid any unintended incidents”. His US counterpart, John Kerry, said talks will be held “as soon as possible,” possibly as early as Thursday.
Mr Kerry added: “It’s one thing to be targeting Isil, but the concern, obviously, is that this is not what was happening.”
Syria’s civil war has raged for four years, with an array of armed groups fighting to overthrow the government.
The US and its allies have insisted that President Assad should leave office, while Russia has backed him remaining in power.
Wednesday’s Russian air strikes reportedly hit rebel-controlled areas of Homs and Hama provinces, causing casualties. The US says it was informed an hour before they took place.
The Russian defence ministry said the country’s air force had targeted IS military equipment, communication facilities, arms depots, ammunition and fuel supplies – and did not hit civilian infrastructure or areas nearby.
Syrian opposition activists said Russian warplanes had hit towns including Zafaraneh, Rastan and Talbiseh, resulting in the deaths of at least 36 civilians, a number of them children.
None of the areas targeted was controlled by IS, activists said.
Mr Kerry said the United States would not object to Russian military action in Syria – as long as it was directed against IS and groups linked to al-Qaeda.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter went further, saying: “By supporting Assad and seemingly taking on everyone who is fighting Assad, you’re taking on the whole rest of the country of Syria.
“At least some parts of the anti-Assad opposition belong in the political transition going forward. That’s why the Russian approach is doomed to fail.”
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was concerned by reports that the Russian air strikes were not targeted against IS.
“I’m especially concerned because there has been no real effort by the Russian side to deconflict the Russian air strikes in Syria with the ongoing US-led coalition fighting Isil [IS].”
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