Russian strikes do not alter coalition anti-IS mission: US

New York: Russia’s launch of air strikes against rebel targets in Syria will not alter the strategy of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, American officials said today.

“The US-led coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned and in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy ISIL,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Explaining the dramatic sequence of events, Kirby said: “A Russian official in Baghdad this morning informed US Embassy personnel that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-ISIL missions today over Syria.

“He further requested that US aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions,” he said.

Separately, a senior US official told reporters that the US did not consider this brief heads-up to be in keeping with Moscow’s promise to communicate with US forces to “de-conflict” the combat area in order to prevent accidental encounters.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, to complain about this, the official added.

Kerry, he said, “conveyed the message that we will not be altering our operations and that this announcement by the Russians runs counter to their stated efforts of de-confliction and is not helpful to that effort, and again made clear that the de-confliction discussions need to begin immediately.