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US working to restore 'deconfliction' line with Russia over Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, on June 19, 2017. (Getty Images)

The top American general says the US is working to restore a communications line with Russia intended to avoid mid-air collisions over Syria, after Moscow cut it off following the US downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday.

"We'll work diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction," US General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday at an event sponsored by the National Press Club in Washington.

Dunford said there was still communications between a US air operations center in Qatar and Russian forces in Syria.

"We have an effective link between our operations center in Qatar and the Russian Federation on the ground in Syria. That link is still ongoing here this morning," he said.

Dunford said the US has "worked through a number of issues" with Russia and that the deconfliction link set up by both sides "has worked very well over the past eight months."

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The deconfliction arrangement was first established with Russia in 2015 to avoid unnecessary conflict and miscommunication in the military movements of US-led coalition and Russian forces in Syria.

Moscow suspended the arrangement after a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian fighter jet in Raqqah on Sunday.

The deconfliction line between the two countries had first been suspended by Russia in April after the United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian military airfield. The line was re-established in May.

Russia also warned on Monday that it would treat US-led coalition jets in Syria that fly west of the Euphrates River as targets.

The Russian military involvement in Syria began in September 2015 after an official request by the Syrian government for military assistance against terrorist groups.

Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011. Over the past few months, Syrian forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements, who have lately increased their acts of violence across the country following a series of defeats on the ground.

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