By Joyce Karam
Russia on Monday warned it would track US-led coalition aircraft in Syria as potential “targets” and halted an incident-prevention hotline with Washington after US forces downed a Syrian jet.
The US moved quickly to contain an escalation, with a top general saying Washington would work to relaunch the “deconfliction” hotline with Russia that was established in 2015. The downing of the jet and Russia’s response came as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to oust Daesh from its Syrian bastion Raqqa.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of failing to use the hotline before downing the plane near Raqqa, and called for a “careful investigation by the US command” into the incident.
“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates River will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defenses on and above ground,” it warned.
“We will work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction,” said US Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to the hotline.
Dunford noted that the hotline, which has been vital in protecting both US and Russian forces operating in Syria, remained in use “over the last few hours.”
Dunford said: “We made every effort to warn individuals not to come any closer. Our commander made the judgment and took action.”
Meanwhile, the next round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana has been scheduled for July 4-5, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said Monday. “The participants plan to discuss the situation in Syria, the process of abiding by agreements reached during previous rounds of talks in Astana, including the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria,” the ministry said in a statement.
In a separate development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned Iran not to threaten Israel after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at a Syrian base of Daesh.
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