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U.S.-Russian Military Hotline in Syria Still Functions

Nov. 4, 2016 (EIRNS)—The U.S.-Russian military hotline in Syria that was established in October 2015 under a flight safety memorandum of understanding, is still functioning, and is notable because it’s one of the only lines of communication remaining between the U.S. and Russian governments. In fact, that line of communication has been tested over the last couple of weeks. Pentagon officials, led by Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Major General Richard Clarke, vice director of the Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate of the Joint Staff, videoconferenced with their Russian counterparts yesterday, according to a statement issued by Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.

"The conversation was constructive, and the two sides reiterated the need to adhere to the memorandum of understanding to avoid accidents and misunderstandings in the air space over Syria,"

Cook said. The statement from the Russian side was apparently equally brief. According to RT, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the conference was held at "the U.S.’s initiative" and was focused on the "implementation of the October 2015 flight safety memorandum."

The conference took place a week after it emerged that a Russian aircraft and a U.S. aircraft flying in Syrian airspace came unusually close to each other on Oct. 17. Both sides, however, downplayed the incident.

"Obviously, it’s a concern for us. [The] emergency line of communication was used and there was discussion afterward, and it’s been determined by our folks that they saw this as an inadvertent contact,"

Cook told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 31, adding, "This was not something they saw an intentional act of hostility."

"The Russian jet passed in front of the coalition jet close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft," Col. John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters by phone on Oct. 28.

"So, that’s closer than we’d like. There was an immediate [radio] contact between the aircraft, and then follow-up through the de-confliction channel that we’ve been working with the Russians [on] for quite some time."

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