The US and Russia have signed a memorandum to avoid clashes in the crowded Syrian airspace, officials from both countries confirmed. The deal is aimed at regulating both the countries' air forces as they pound extremist targets in the Arab nation.
As soon as the agreement takes effect, there will be round-the-clock communication between American and Russia forces. Washington has also agreed "to pass on the rules of the game to other forces" operating in Syria.
Pentagon spokesperson, Peter Cook, said that the memorandum of understanding was to set a series of protocols, which the forces would adhere to, to avoid mid-air incidents in Syria. Without divulging any specifics, Cook said the jets would maintain "safe distance" between each other.
During a press conference, Cook said: "The fact that we have had to resort to a memorandum of understanding... gives you an indication of our concern about Russia's activities but (also) our willingness to work with the Russians when it's in our own interest."
Both countries have made it clear this agreement would not alter the broader approach of Moscow and Washington. The US State Department spokesperson John Kirby clarified: "It's not a treaty of cooperation or anything like that ... It doesn't connote cooperation or coordination or joint targeting."
Russia's airstrikes are broadly aimed at pounding positions of anti-Assad forces, while the US primarily targets Islamic State (Isis) establishments. The document has not been made public on Russia's request.
Meanwhile, the Russian defence ministry said, "[the agreement] has important practical value. It regulates the actions of manned and unmanned aircraft in the airspace above Syria. The Memorandum contains a set of rules and limitations aimed at preventing incidents between the air forces of Russia and the US". Forces from both countries reached the agreement after three rounds of talks.