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Russia and Turkey agree deal to 'coordinate' strikes in Syria

Russia's defence ministry says the deal will allow the countries to 'coordinate' strikes on 'terrorist targets' in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hand with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) during a press conference on 10 October 2016 in Istanbul (AFP)

Russia and Turkey have signed an agreement spelling out mechanisms to "coordinate" their air forces in Syria when conducting strikes "on terrorist targets," the Russian defence ministry said on Thursday.

Delegations from the two countries, which last month brokered a ceasefire in war-torn Syria, met in Moscow Thursday for consultations on cooperating while fighting Islamic State militants, signing a memorandum, the ministry said.

"The document defines the mechanisms to coordinate and cooperate by the Russian airforce and the Turkish airforce while carrying out strikes on terrorist targets as well as the actions by the sides to prevent incidents while planes and unmanned aerial vehicles are in Syrian airspace," it said.

Moscow and Ankara agreed to back a ceasefire last month between the Syrian government and rebel groups which went into effect on 30 December and has been observed in vast parts of the country, though clashes have continued to rock areas near Damascus.

The fighting has notably damaged water infrastructure risking further military escalation, United Nation's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said earlier Thursday, adding that meetings in Moscow and Ankara would be addressing the issue.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman lashed out at the US military on Thursday after it re-tweeted a statement by a Kurdish-dominated alliance that Washington backs in Syria saying it had no links to Kurdish militants fighting the Turkish state.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, the main US partner on the ground in Syria in the fight against Islamic State, includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.