Defense Department officials today expressed concerns during a video conference with Russian Defense Ministry counterparts held to discuss June 16 airstrikes by Russian forces that struck Syrian opposition forces conducting counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant operations in the area, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
The conference was co-chaired by Elissa Slotkin, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, Cook said in a statement summarizing the discussion.
“This extraordinary session was convened under the auspices of the Safety of Flight Memorandum of Understanding, an arrangement between the counter-ISIL coalition and Russian Federation to maintain safety in the air space over Syria,” Cook said.
The DoD officials expressed strong concerns about the attack on the coalition-supported counter-ISIL forces at the At-Tanf garrison, which included forces participating in the cessation of hostilities in Syria, and emphasized that those concerns would be addressed through ongoing diplomatic discussions on the cessation of hostilities, the press secretary said.
Regarding safety, he added, department officials conveyed that Russia’s continued strikes at At-Tanf, even after U.S. attempts to inform Russian forces through proper channels of ongoing coalition air support to the counter-ISIL forces, created safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces. The officials requested Russian responses to address those concerns, he said.
“The two sides reiterated the need to adhere to measures to enhance operational safety and avoid accidents and misunderstandings in the air space over Syria,” Cook said.