White House says it retains right to self-defence in Syria; Moscow warns Washington

Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:59pm GMT
 

By Steve Holland, Phil Stewart and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday that coalition forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria retained the right to self-defence as Russia warned it viewed any planes flying in its area of operations as potential targets.

Tensions escalated on Sunday as the U.S. military brought down a Syrian military jet near Raqqa for bombing near U.S.-allied forces on the ground, the first time Washington had carried out such an action in the multi-pronged civil war.

It was also the first time the U.S. Air Force had shot down a manned aircraft since May 1999.

In a move that will fan tensions between Washington and Moscow, Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of the jet.

Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft. It stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

The Russian Defence Ministry said it was also immediately scrapping a Syrian air safety agreement with Washington designed to avoid collisions and dangerous incidents.

Moscow accused Washington of failing to honour the pact by not informing it of the decision to shoot down the Syrian plane despite Russian aircraft being airborne at the same time.

Washington hit back, saying it would "do what we can to protect our interests."   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: An F/A-18E Super Hornet takes off from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on October 29, 2016. U.S. Navy/Seaman Weston A. Mohr/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS
 
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