Moscow, Washington– US Marine General Joseph Dunford said on Monday that the United States was working to restore a communications line with Russia in order to avoid an accidental clash over Syria.
Moscow had cut off the “deconfliction” communications line after the US downed a Syrian military jet on Sunday.
In a press briefing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “We’ll work diplomatically and military in the coming hours to reestablish deconfliction.”
Russia has warned that it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are also present as “targets”.
Tensions between the two countries escalated on Sunday as the US military brought down a Syrian military jet near Raqqa for bombing near US-allied forces on the ground.
In response, Russia’s defense ministry said it would track US-led coalition aircraft with missile systems and military aircraft.
The ministry added that a communications line set up between Russia and the US to prevent mid-air collisions would also be suspended.
“All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
“The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” it added, noting that the repeated combat operations by the US under the pretext of combating terrorism “against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the United States and all other countries involved in the Syria conflict to “coordinate their actions.”
“We urge everyone to avoid acting unilaterally, to respect the sovereignty of Syria,” he stated.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for her part, urged Russia to continue the use of “deconfliction” measures over the skies of Syria to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
Earlier on Monday, the US Central Command issued a statement saying that the downed Syrian military jet had been dropping bombs near US-backed SDF forces, which are seeking to oust ISIS from the city of Raqqa.
Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened.”