Last week the Russia Ministry of Defense and the United States’ Department of Defense signed a memorandum of understanding to prevent air accidents in Syrian airspace. The chief of the Main Department for Operations at the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Gen Andrey Kartapolov told the Russian State news agency Tass that Russian and United States air groups conducted joint exercise on Tuesday to drill skills of pilots and ground services in case of midair proximity over Syria. Gen Andrey Kartapolov added:
"At eleven in the morning Moscow time today, Russian and US air forces conducted joint exercise to drill skills of interaction between crews and ground forces in case of midair proximity”.
The Russian military has, moreover, established contacts with leaders of "Syrian opposition leaders and field commanders” of several armed groups. Although it has not been confirmed by either Russian or U.S. official sources, it is likely that these groups primarily are groups to which U.S. Special Forces have been deployed. The liaison may reduce the risk of coincidentally bombing each others’ forces and further de-escalate Russian – US tensions.
Gen Andrey Kartapolov said that Russia had repeatedly said it was ready to "cooperate with all Syrian patriotic forces struggling against terrorists from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusrah, adding:
"As part of efforts to create a broad international anti-terrorist coalition in the Middle East, we have established contacts with leaders of the Syrian opposition and field commanders of a number of armed groups…. Despite their four-year-long confrontation with the government troops, these patriotically-minded forces postpone their political ambitions to the ideas of preserving Syria as a united independent state free from the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations,” Kartapolov said. "We hope this step will give a new vector in the settlement of the Syrian conflict.”
The general also noted that "the Syrian opposition” had provided the coordinated of 24 targets to the Russian military. The Tass news agency quotes Gen Andrey Kartapolov as saying:
"We have reached an agreement on joint actions against terrorists and established contacts for information transfer. Thus, Russia’s warplanes flew 12 sorties today to hit 24 terrorist targets with the use of boosted devices and high-precision air bomb KAB-500 in the areas of Tamdor, Deir ez-Zor, Itria and east of Aleppo. Coordinates of these targets were referred by the opposition,” he said.
In particular, the Russian air strikes destroyed a terrorist command center, a munitions depot, ten various fortified positions and 12 artillery and air defense positions of terrorists. Washington and Moscow have also reached a partial consensus about those armed opposition groups whom both sides would accept as possible participants in a future political solution to end the war in Syria.
F/AK – nsnbc 03.11.2015