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Defense Officials Discuss Flight Safety With Russian Counterparts

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WASHINGTON, February 29, 2016 — The Defense Department today held a video conference between senior DoD officials and their Russian counterparts to discuss ongoing implementation of the U.S.-Russia memorandum of understanding on flight safety over Syrian airspace, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. co-chaired the call, he said.

The two sides discussed measures to enhance operational safety for coalition and Russian military forces in the fight to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria, Cook said, “including the means to avoid accidents and unintended confrontation between coalition and Russian forces whenever the two sides operate in close proximity.”

Cease-Fire Consultations Ongoing

Separate consultations are ongoing through other channels to address the agreement developed Feb. 12 by the International Syria Support Group members in Munich regarding the existing cease-fire, he said.

“Today's video conference was intended to focus solely on safety issues and was not a forum to discuss issues related to the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement,” Cook said.

Today's meeting follows discussions in January and in October 2015 on the same subject between the Defense Department and the Russian Defense Ministry.

The conversation was constructive, Cook said, and the two sides agreed to continue safety discussions in this format in the future.