Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Russia warns US over downing of Syrian warplane

AFP, BEIRUT

Russia on Monday warned it would track US-led coalition aircraft in Syria as potential “targets” and halted a military hotline with Washington after US forces downed a Syrian jet on Sunday.

The US moved quickly to contain an escalation, with a top general saying it would work to relaunch the “deconfliction” hotline established in 2015.

The downing of the jet and Russia’s response came as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to oust the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian bastion of Raqqa.

Analysts said neither Washington nor Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appear to be seeking further confrontation, although the risks remain high in Syria’s increasingly crowded battlefields and airspace.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Washington had failed to use the hotline — a vital incident-prevention tool — before downing the plane near Raqqa.

“We will work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction,” US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joe Dunford said, referring to the hotline.

Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine Galloway said the US had taken “prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria” to ensure the safety of pilots.

The jet was downed on Sunday evening after regime forces targeted the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters battling the IS group.

A US F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian Su-22 as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of al-Tabqah, the US-led coalition said.

Russia’s defense minister said the pilot ejected “above IS-controlled territories” and that his fate was unknown.

The coalition said Syrian troops attacked SDF fighters near al-Tabqah, south of Raqqa, wounding several and chasing them out of the town.

It said the warplane was targeted in line with the “rules of engagement.”

Damascus and its ally Moscow condemned the “aggression.”

The Syrian army said the plane was hit while on a mission against the IS group and warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression.”

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