After US Airstrikes, Russia Suspends Syrian Air Safety Agreement

Syria was one of the few areas where analysts believed Moscow and Washington might be able to find common ground.

Published
World
2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: AP)

Russia in a statement has said Moscow was suspending a Syrian air safety agreement with the United States originally drawn up to ensure that the two countries' planes did not collide.

This comes immediately after US launched cruise missile strikes on Syria as a response to the Assad government’s chemical attack with sarin, a banned nerve agent, that killed over 80 civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the US airstrikes as illegal on Friday, warning the move would further damage already battered US-Russia relations, which Moscow had hoped President Donald Trump would revive.

The White House said that sections of the airbase, where Russian forces were believed to be, were not targeted.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said that approval from Moscow was sought before the attacks.

This satellite image released by the US Department of Defense shows a damage assessment image of Shayrat air base in Syria, following US Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes. (Photo: AP)
This satellite image released by the US Department of Defense shows a damage assessment image of Shayrat air base in Syria, following US Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes. (Photo: AP)
It’s clear to any specialist that the decision to launch a strike was taken in Washington before the events in Idlib (the province where the gas poisoning took place), which were simply used as a pretext for a show of force.
Russian foreign ministry

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters that the US strikes had been conducted to help rebel groups fighting Assad.

Russia would keep military channels of communication open with Washington, but would not exchange any information through them, he added.

What Does Suspension of This Agreement Mean?

In September 2015, after Russia launched an airstrike campaign in Syria, the memorandum was signed between Moscow and Washington.

Under the memorandum, the two countries exchanged key information about their flights to avoid mid-air collisions in the Syrian skies that are packed with warplanes and missiles. Several US pilots have credited the "deconfliction line" with helping them stay safe, reported The Independent.

While the US has its own methods of scanning the skies, Russia not sharing details of its coordinates will be a deterrent and the chances of collisions increase.

Syria, ironically, was one of the few areas where analysts believed Moscow and Washington might be able to find common ground.

Tillerson is due to make his first visit to Moscow next week, an eagerly awaited event in Russia where politicians have been anxious to try to use the change of administration to reboot relations.

(With inputs from Reuters and The Independent.)

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