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Russia suspends Syrian airspace pact with U.S. after missile attack

Will this make the Syrian skies less safe for U.S. pilots?


Josh Katzowitz


Russia has responded to Thursday night’s attack on Syria by suspending an agreement with the U.S. that prevents direct conflicts in the skies over the Middle Eastern country.

Moscow said it would not abide by the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents, which keeps the air fleets of the U.S. and Russia from colliding with or firing at each other when flying over Syria.

In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia said:

The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight … It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified. While previous initiatives of this kind were presented as efforts to combat terrorism, now they are clearly an act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. Actions undertaken by the U.S. today inflict further damage to the Russia-U.S. relations.

Despite some critics’ beliefs that the Thursday night U.S. attack on Syria was a #WagTheDog moment for the Trump administration to steer attention away from his possible ties to Russia’s attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election, Russia said the aerial attack on Syria was “to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”

The initial agreement between the Pentagon and Russia was forged in 2015 so pilots of the two countries could communicate with each other to avoid collisions or attacks on each other. It’s an important agreement since Russia has supported Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and has given him support through the air, while the U.S. and NATO have struck against al-Assad’s forces in the country’s long civil war.

“We assess such actions of the U.S. side as a gross violation of the memorandum on incident prevention and ensuring security in operations in the Syrian airspace signed in 2015,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement, via Sputnik News. “The Russian Defense Ministry is suspending cooperation with the Pentagon within the framework of this memorandum.”

H/T the Independent

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