Australia halts air strikes over Syria amid US-Russia tensions

20 Juin, 2017, 17:15 | Author: Claudine Rigal

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter jet for the first time.

The U.S. -led coalition shot down the Syrian army's Su-22 aircraft on Sunday after it claimed that Syrian aircraft had attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions south of Tabqah.

And that disagreement has constrained American leaders, who've made clear that any US military activity in Syria avoid provoking an open confrontation between the USA and Russian Federation, the world's two greatest nuclear powers. The agreement covers four zones in Syria where the rebels are fighting pro-government forces.

During a six-week deployment earlier this year, a Dutch plane refueled 189 coalition plans.

Australia on Tuesday suspended its airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria as a precaution, after a USA fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane earlier this week and Russian Federation warned the US -led coalition from flying over Syrian army positions west of the Euphrates River. The U.S. -led coalition said it acted in "collective self-defense" of partnered forces.

Russia's defence ministry said the United States had given it no warning, following which Moscow was also suspending coordination over "deconfliction zones" that were created to prevent incidents involving U.S. and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria, reports the Guardian.

A spokesman for Australia's Defense Department said strike operations in Syria have temporarily ceased.

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Russian Federation is a key ally of Assad and has backed his forces with air power and advisers to wrestle back control of strategic pockets of territory such as the northern city of Aleppo.

White House officials say they will work with Russian Federation to re-open the communication lines in Syria but they warn America will maintain its right to defend itself.

The ministry says it views the incident as Washington's "deliberate failure to make good on its commitments" under the de-confliction deal.

Russia's warning came after United States planes shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies on Monday that the downing was akin to "helping the terrorists that the U.S.is fighting against".

"The Russians clearly are doing a lot of sabre rattling right now, but the reality is that the United States has significantly superior air power in the region, and it would be extremely foolish for the Russians to pick a fight with the United States in Syria", said Nile Gardiner, an worldwide affairs expert at the Heritage Foundation think tank.

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