US, Russia 'deconflict' document on Syria to be released
A document laying out a joint US and Russian military plan to avoid confrontation in Syria will likely to be released in the coming hours, a White House official said late Monday.
The memorandum of understanding with Russia is the result of three separate conversations between military officials from both countries that intends to prevent unintended clashes, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"This is ensuring that when pilots are operating, that they're using internationally recognised communications channels, that they're speaking English so that we can - you know, avoid mishaps," Earnest said.
"But this does not at all rise to the level of any sort of strategic cooperation at all."
To emphasise his point, he pointed to the announcement on Sunday of an operation by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group (IS) that succeeded in killing the leader of an al-Qaeda affiliate group in northwestern Syria that was "notable" for the US, according to Earnest.
"Because we know this is where the Russians are spending a lot of time and carrying out a lot of their military operations," he said.
"In this instance, the United States was able to successfully carry out this operation without any undue interference from the Russians."
Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria late last month. The strikes are aimed at supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - an ally of Russia - against IS, according to the Kremlin.
Turkey and the West accuse Russia of targeting rebel groups in Syria opposed to Assad, many of which are supported by Ankara and Washington.
To avoid military conflicts in the region, the US and Russian military officials began talks earlier this month about air safety above Syria.
At least 250,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, with 7.6 million internally displaced and more than 4 million having fled to nearby countries.