Russia, US Improving Syria Coordination

Russia, US Improving Syria CoordinationRussia, US Improving Syria Coordination

Russia and the United States have agreed on the need to improve coordination to avert incidents while conducting military operations in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

Military officials from the two countries reached the agreement at a video conference, the ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters.

On Saturday, the Pentagon said it had questioned Moscow over Russian airstrikes conducted against US-backed Syrian opposition forces last week. The Pentagon said Moscow had failed to heed US warnings.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Syria on Saturday to meet the country's leader and inspect the Russian air base there, a high-profile trip intended to underline Moscow's role in the region.

Shoigu met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus for talks that focused on cooperation between the two militaries and "some aspects of cooperation in the fight against terrorist groups," the Russian Defense Ministry said. It said Shoigu held talks with Assad on orders from President Vladimir Putin, AP reported.

The visit comes a day after President Vladimir Putin suggested that some in the Syrian opposition could join the Cabinet to help advance the stalled peace process.

Shoigu also visited the Hemeimeem air base in the province of Latakia, where he met with pilots and inspected their quarters, according to the Defense Ministry's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov.

Russia has conducted an air campaign in Syria since last September, helping Assad's forces win back some ground. Putin pulled back some of Russia's warplanes in March in what he described as a move to help encourage peace talks, but the military has maintained a strong presence at Hemeimeem.

A US- and Russian-brokered ceasefire that began on Feb. 27 has helped reduce hostilities, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas, particularly around Aleppo. The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, have been excluded from the truce.