U.S. working to relaunch military hotline with Russian Federation

Russian leader Vladimir Putin instructs government to start process of normalizing ties with Turkey.
      
               Kremlin Press Office

Russian Federation reacted angrily to the US shootdown of the Syrian jet, which the Pentagon said was dropping bombs near the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a mixed Kurdish-Arab militia fighting Islamic State.

The U.S. Central Command had issued a statement saying the downed Syrian military jet had been dropping bombs near U.S. -backed SDF forces, which are seeking to oust Islamic State from the city of Raqqa.

The downing of the warplane - the first time in the conflict that the USA has shot down a Syrian jet - came as Iran fired several ballistic missiles at IS positions in eastern Syria in retaliation for two attacks by the extremists in Tehran earlier this month that killed 17 people.

At stake are both Syria's oil-producing area to the south of Raqqa and a land corridor between Baghdad and Damascus that Iran aspires to control.

The threat may bear little teeth given that the majority of US anti-ISIS operations occur east of the Euphrates river.

Moscow also called on the USA military to provide a full accounting of why it made a decision to shoot down the Syrian Su-22.

In response to the shoot-down of the manned Syrian aircraft, Syria's ally in the civil-war, Russia, chose to cut off the deconfliction line - a communications hotline established by Russia and the U.S.to avoid mid-air collisions over the congested airspace in Syria - and warned it would track all USA and coalition aircraft with its air defense systems.

The US military is prohibited by law from coordinating directly with the Russian military, but given the increased pace and scale of military operations in Syria, the US and Russia have sought ways to ensure that their respective personnel are not targeted by mistake, setting up a series of so-called "de-confliction zones" that delineate areas of operation for the coalition and the Russian forces.

Earlier this month, a USA fighter jet shot down an Iranian-made drone that dropped a bomb near forces patrolling the base. SDF fighters are aligned with the Americans in the campaign against the Islamic State group.

In comments to Russian news agencies, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov compared the downing to "helping the terrorists that the U.S.is fighting against".

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And a top Russian official called the USA downing of the Syrian plane an act of aggression that assists terrorists.

Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described his Defense Ministry's statement as a warning.

"I'm sure that because of this neither the USA nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft", he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.

It is the fourth major confrontation between Syrian and pro-regime militias over the past several weeks, and the second aircraft downed by coalition fighters. He said that if they do threaten a Russian aircraft, then "a threat for those jets may appear".

US -backed opposition fighters said Assad's forces have been attacking them in the northern province of Raqqa and warned that if such attacks continue, the fighters will take action.

Bolstered by coalition air-power, Kurdish forces in Syria have entered the second week of fighting to seize the city of Raqqa, where almost 2,000 ISIS fighters are battling to maintain control of their de facto capital in a bloody street-by-street battle.

The SDF however accused the Syrian government on Monday of attacking its positions using planes, artillery and tanks.

Sillo also warned that if "the regime continues in its offensive against our positions in Raqqa province, this will force us to retaliate with force". On Sunday, Syrian forces seized control of the town of Resafa, an important junction on the road on the road to Deir ez-Zor, just 40 km south of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Once that territory is retaken - and Islamic State militants are gone - the White House will have to decide whether it will continue to deepen its involvement and protect its partners against Assad's forces and their backers.

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