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article imageRussia not cooperating with U.S. in military safety talks: Carter

By AFP     Oct 6, 2015 in World

Efforts by US military officials to work with Russia to keep the skies over Syria safe for pilots from both countries appear to be stalled, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said Tuesday.

Russian violations of Turkish airspace would prompt the United States to "strengthen our posture," Carter also warned, but did not give details.

Officials held discussions last week -- at Russia's request -- aimed at establishing accident-avoidance measures so that warplanes flying over Syria would not be in the same place at the same time.

The so-called "deconfliction" talks came after Russia started bombing in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, further complicating the four-and-a-half-year conflict.

But since then, and despite Russian violations of Turkish air space over the weekend, Moscow has not participated in further talks to avoid mishaps, despite US several requests.

"We are waiting for the Russians. They owe us a response," Carter said at a Spanish-US air base in Moron de la Frontera in southern Spain.

"These meetings were their initiative in the first place, focused on professional conduct. It's only professional that you follow through on the requests they made and they've not done that yet."

Turkey says Russian fighter jets violated its air space near the Syrian border on Saturday and Sunday, further heightening tensions.

The action is making America take a stronger stance against Moscow, Carter said without elaborating.

"This is going to cause us further to strengthen our posture with respect to Russia, and it's further evidence that they are not thinking things through very well," he said.

He earlier told troops that Russia's behaviour "needs to be checked."

The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed Russia's involvement in Syria would not alter continued air attacks against Islamic State jihadists there and in Iraq as part of a coalition of more than 60 nations.

Russian Defence Ministry's released images purporting to show an Su-24M bomber dropping munitio...
Russian Defence Ministry's released images purporting to show an Su-24M bomber dropping munitions during an airstrike in Syria
, Russia Defence Ministry/AFP

Carter could not confirm reports Moscow was committing "volunteer" ground troops to fight in Syria, but said if true, "that would simply be deepening their mistake."

Russia already has at least 2,000 military personnel in Syria, Pentagon officials say. They are stationed at an air base in the Latakia region in the country's northwest.

Carter was visiting Moron de la Frontera air base because the United States and Spain have agreed the permanent establishment of a force of 2,200 US marines at the facility, which was initially bolstered after the 2012 attack on a US mission in Benghazi, eastern Libya.

The main mission of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response (MAGTF) unit is to protect US embassies in Africa, evacuate civilians in difficulty, or intervene in conflicts or humanitarian crises.

Marines and aircrews are ready to be en route to any regional crisis within six hours of being notified.

Carter is on a five-day trip to Europe that also includes a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

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