Posts Tagged ‘airspace’

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces
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Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

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“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

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Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet

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June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

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Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet

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Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/russia-target-us-led-coalition-warplanes-over-syria

Turkey’s Erdogan slams ‘inhumane’ isolation of Qatar — “Contrary to Islamic values.”

June 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The Qatar crisis has put President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey in a delicate position as Ankara regards Qatar as its chief ally in the Gulf but is also keen to maintain its improving relations with the key regional power Saudi Arabia

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday slammed the economic and political isolation of Qatar as inhumane and contrary to Islamic values after key Gulf states broke off ties with Ankara’s ally.

“Taking action to isolate a country in all areas is inhumane and un-Islamic,” Erdogan said in televised comments to his party in Ankara, after Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

In his strongest comments yet on the crisis, Erdogan added that Qatar was a country “on which a death sentenced had in some way been pronounced”.

The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position as Ankara regards Qatar as its chief ally in the Gulf but is also keen to maintain its improving relations with the key regional power Saudi Arabia.

Turkey also is eager to maintain workable relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s foe with whom Doha’s critics say Qatar maintained excessively close ties.

Erdogan added he would hold three-way phone talks on the crisis later Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The move by Saudi and its allies came shortly after US President Donald Trump visited Riyadh, with some analysts saying the US leader had emboldened the Saudi leadership.

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Erdogan would hold talks on the crisis with Trump in the coming days.

Erdogan vehemently rejected the accusations — already strongly denied by Doha — that Qatar supports terrorism, arguing the country had been a staunch opponent of Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

“Qatar is a country which, like Turkey, has adopted the most resolute stance against Daesh (IS),” said Erdogan. “Let’s stop fooling ourselves.”

Striking a careful balance, Erdogan stopped short of directly criticising Saudi Arabia’s actions but called on Saudi King Salman to show leadership by solving the crisis.

“I think that as the elder statesman of the Gulf, the king of Saudi Arabia should solve this affair and show leadership,” said Erdogan.

Turkey’s parliament last week approved deploying troops to a Turkish base in Qatar in what was seen as a show of support for its embattled ally.

The agreement does not contain any specific number of troops to be stationed in the base, or when.

The curbs placed on gas-rich Qatar have ranged from bans on flag-carrier Qatar Airways using airspace of the countries involved to Saudi Arabia suspending subscription sales and renewals to a Qatar-linked sports broadcaster.

Qatar ‘extremely comfortable’ despite sanctions, markets stabilize — Iran and Morocco send food

June 13, 2017

Reuters

Tue Jun 13, 2017 | 3:19am EDT

By John Davison and Andrew Torchia | DOHA/DUBAI
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Qatar’s financial markets stabilized on Monday after a week of losses as the government showed it could keep the economy running in the face of sanctions by its neighbors.

The finance minister of the world’s richest country per capita played down the economic toll of the confrontation, and said the government was “extremely comfortable” with its financial position, with the resources to endure the pressure.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.

The biggest diplomatic rift in years among the rich states of the Gulf has disrupted Qatar’s imports of food and other materials and caused some foreign banks to scale back business.

On Monday, it was becoming clear that Qatar could keep the economic damage from becoming critical. Some of its food factories were working extra shifts to process imports from nations outside the Gulf, such as Brazil. Shipping lines have re-routed container traffic via Oman instead of the UAE.

Such measures may involve delays and raise costs for Qatar; on Monday Fitch put Qatar’s AA credit rating on Rating Watch Negative, saying a sustained crisis could hurt its credit outlook. But they are unlikely to prevent the economy from functioning in any fundamental way, economists say.

The diplomatic confrontation has become a major test for the United States, which is closely allied to the countries on both sides. Qatar hosts the Middle East headquarters for U.S. air forces; Bahrain hosts the main base for the U.S. Navy.

Image result for food processing, Qatar, photos

As the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas, Qatar’s wealth has allowed it to crown its small Gulf peninsula with skyscrapers. It has also given the government the means to take an outsized role in regional affairs, sponsoring factions in revolts and civil wars and brokering peace deals across the Middle East. Several neighbors have been furious for years.

“STARVE THE BEAST”

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has strongly backed the countries imposing sanctions on Qatar despite a more neutral stance taken by the State Department and Pentagon, said the measures were helping to stop terrorism funding.

A logo of Qatar Airways is seen at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

“One of the big things that we did and you are seeing it now is Qatar and all of the things that are actually going on in a very positive fashion. We are stopping the funding of terrorism,” he said during a photo call with cabinet officials. “We are going to starve the beast.”

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Qatari Food companies step in to fill the void.  Workers work in a meat processing plant in Doha, Qatar, June 10, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Thani told a news conference in France that Qatar “still had no clue” why the nations cut ties. He denied that Qatar supported groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that its neighbors oppose, or had warm ties with their enemy Iran.

So far, the measures do not seem to have caused a serious shortages of supplies in shops. Some people have even joked about being “blockaded” inside the world’s richest country: a Twitter page called “Doha under siege” pokes fun at the prospect of readying “escape yachts”, stocking up on caviar and trading Rolex watches for espresso.

But an economic downturn could have more dire consequences for the vast majority of Qatar’s 2.7 million residents, who are not citizens but foreign workers. Migrant laborers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s population, mostly unskilled and dependent on construction projects such as building stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup.

In an interview with CNBC television — one of the first public appearances by a Qatari economic policy maker since the crisis erupted — Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi said the government was “extremely comfortable with our positions, our investments and liquidity in our systems”.

The energy sector and economy are essentially operating as normal and no serious impact has been felt on supplies of food or other goods. Qatar can import goods from Turkey, the Far East or Europe and will respond to the crisis by diversifying its economy even more, he told CNBC.

“Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don’t think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what’s happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal.”

Jason Tuvey, a Middle East economist at London-based Capital Economics, said that as long as the other Gulf countries did not interfere with Qatar’s gas exports, the tiny state should be able to carry on without a serious recession.

“It seems Qatar would be able to weather quite a prolonged period of sanctions,” he said, adding that economic growth, fueled by government spending and infrastructure projects, was “highly unlikely to grind to halt”.

Qatar, like other Gulf states, has tried to diversify from oil and gas. The sanctions have hurt one of its highest-profile enterprises, fast-growing airline Qatar Airways, which says it has been cut it off from 18 of its destinations.

“It is actually a travesty of civilized behavior to close airline offices. Airlines offices are not political arms,” CEO Akbar Al Baker told CNN. “We were sealed as if it was a criminal organization. We were not allowed to give refunds to our passengers.”

He added that he was “extremely disappointed” in Trump. Washington “should be the leader trying to break this blockade and not sitting and watching what’s going on and putting fuel on (the) fire.”

UNDERPINNED BY WEALTH FUND

Qatar’s riyal currency, pegged at 3.64 to the U.S. dollar, was under pressure last week as banks reacted nervously to the diplomatic rift. On Monday, the currency came off last week’s lows in the spot QAR= and offshore forwards markets QAR1Y=W.

Bankers said the central bank, which has $34.5 billion of net foreign reserves backed by an estimated hundreds of billions of dollars of assets in Doha’s sovereign wealth fund, was supplying enough dollars to keep exchange rates under control.

The cost of insuring Qatar’s sovereign debt against default QAGV5YUSAC=MG fell back for the first time in a week. Yields on Doha’s international bonds XS140578215=TE dropped almost 10 basis points and the stock market .QSI stabilized after sliding 8.7 percent in the past week.

Tuvey said the main threat to the economy was that Qatari banks could find it much harder to obtain wholesale funding from other banks to sustain growth in their loan portfolios. However, if the situation becomes critical, the Qatari government can liquidate some of its overseas assets to fund its banks, as Saudi Arabia did last year when its banks faced a squeeze.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has major stakes in top Western companies such as Credit Suisse (CSGN.S). Asked by CNBC whether it might now sell some of those stakes to raise money, Emadi indicated this was not on the cards for now.

Qatar’s normally bustling border with Saudi Arabia was deserted on Monday. Soldiers in an armored pick-up truck looked out over barbed-wire at sprawling dustland separating Qatar from Saudi Arabia. Indian migrants who work at the border in green uniforms lay on inspection platforms sheltering from the sun.

Normally, thousands of passengers and hundreds of trucks from Saudi Arabia pass through the crossing each day, bringing fruit and vegetables, as well as construction materials.

(Additional reporting by Tom Finn and Ibrahim Saber at the Abu Samra border crossing and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff and Peter Millership, Larry King)

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Reuters

Tue Jun 13, 2017 | 3:19am EDT

Morocco says will send food to Qatar after Gulf states cut ties

Morocco said it would send plane-loads of food to Qatar to boost supplies there after Gulf Arab states cut diplomatic and economic ties with Doha.

Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbors before the diplomatic shutdown, has also been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.

“This decision was made in conformity with Islamic precepts that call for solidarity and mutual aid between Muslim people, notably during this holy month of Ramadan,” the Moroccan foreign ministry statement said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain accuse Qatar of supporting militants – an allegation dismissed by Doha.

On Sunday, Morocco said it would remain neutral in the dispute, offering to mediate between the Gulf countries, which are all close allies to the North African kingdom.

Qatar’s finance minister said on Monday the world’s richest country per capita has the resources to endure and played down the economic toll of the confrontation.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens)

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Gulf air embargo only applies to Qatari companies, says UAE

June 13, 2017

AFP, France 24 and Reuters

© Frederic Brown, AFP | File photo taken on March 21, 2017 shows a Qatar Airways aircraft coming in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-13

The air embargo imposed on Qatar only applies to airlines from Qatar or registered there, the United Arab Emirates Civil Aviation Authority said Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain issued identical statements on the air embargo, which came into effect when Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

The embargo bans “all Qatari aviation companies and aircraft registered in the state of Qatar” from landing or flying through the airspace of the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, according to the statements published by the national agencies of the three countries.

The ban does not apply to aviation companies and aircraft not registered in Qatar and the three neighbouring countries, and even those which wish to cross their airspace to and from Qatar, they said.

The three countries’ aviation bodies also said non-Qatari private and chartered flights from Qatar must submit requests to them at least 24 hours before crossing the airspace.

The request should include a list of names and nationalities of crews and passengers, and the cargo carried by the aircraft, they said.

Qatar asks UN body to rule the ban illegal

On Monday, Qatar Airways called on the UN’s aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, to declare the Gulf boycott illegal and a violation of a 1944 convention on international air transport, also called the Chicago Convention.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the move by Saudi Arabia and its allies was an “illegal blockade”.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain are among several countries which last week announced the suspension of all ties to Qatar, over what they claim is the state’s support for extremist groups and its political proximity to Shiite Iran.

QATAR’S ISOLATION IS A REGIONAL POWER PLAY

Riyadh has insisted that closing its airspace to Qatari flights was within its sovereign rights to protect its citizens from any threat.

Responding to the Qatari appeal, the UAE General Aviation Authority said it is fully committed to the Chicago Convention, but the state reserves the sovereign right under international law to take any precautionary measures to protect its national security if necessary, according to UAE state news agency WAM.

Qatar has denied the allegations and has vowed to fight the air and sea blockades in international forums.

Furthermore, international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also slammed the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE for “toying” with the lives of thousands of ordinary citizens affected by the blockade.

The blockade is widely seen as a way to punish Qatar for its good relations with Tehran, as part of the larger struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Human rights of potentially thousands of people in Gulf affected by steps imposed after political dispute with Qatar http://amn.st/60108lv6O 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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Saudi Arabia Says Qatar Airspace Closure to Protect Citizens From Threats

June 13, 2017

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia’s aviation body said on Tuesday that closing its airspace to flights from Qatar was within its sovereign rights to protect its citizens from any threat.

The Saudi comments were in reaction to remarks by Qatar Airway’s chief executive that the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were violating international law by shutting out Qatari flights.

Image result for Qatar Airways, photos

CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker. (AFP/Getty Images)

The airspace closure was within its sovereign right to protect the country and its citizens from anything it sees as a threat and as a precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

Similar statements were also issued by the UAE and Bahraini aviation authorities after a CNN interview of Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, who criticized the three Arab countries for the airspace closure.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.

Al Baker had appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency which administers the Chicago convention that guarantees civil overflights to declare the airspace closure as illegal.

The UAE General Aviation Authority said it is fully committed to the Chicago convention, but the state reserves the sovereign right under international law to take any precautionary measures to protect its national security if necessary, according to UAE state news agency WAM.

The three countries’ aviation bodies also said non-Qatari private and chartered flights from Qatar must submit requests to them at least 24 hours before crossing the airspace.

The request should include a list of names and nationalities of crews and passengers, and the cargo carried by the aircraft, they said.

(Reporting by Celine Aswad and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Russia and the United States agree to fully resume Syria agreement for preventing mid-air incidents

May 7, 2017

Image may contain: sky and airplane

Russian Tu-22M aircraft in flight

  • Russian and U.S. chiefs of general staff agreed to resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria
  • Discussed in a phone call the Syria de-escalation zones and agreed to continue working on additional measures aimed to avoid clashes in Syria
  • The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria 

Russia and the United States have found common ground over Syria.

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A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet

The Russian and U.S. chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying.

Russian General Valery Gerasimov and General Joseph Dunford of the United States discussed in a phone call the Syria de-escalation zones and agreed to continue working on additional measures aimed to avoid clashes in Syria.

Russian and U.S. chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.

Russian and U.S. chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.

The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that Dunford and Gerasimov ‘talked about the recent Astana agreement and affirmed their commitment to de-conflicting operations in Syria. Both also agreed to maintain regular contact.’

An agreement reached at peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, and backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, calls for ‘de-escalation zones’ in major areas of conflict between Syrian government forces and rebel groups.

The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups

The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups

This news comes right after US-led coalition warplanes were barred from flying over four ‘safe zones’ in Syria from Saturday as part of a Russian plan to reduce the violence there.

Sergei Rudskoi, a Russia military leader, said four ‘de-escalation’ zones in rebel held territory in Idlib, Homs, a suburb of Damascus and between Daraa and Quneitra provinces will be established under a pact that comes into force from tomorrow.

As a sign of intent, he said Russia warplanes had already stopped bombing the areas in an armistice which he claimed started on May 1.

The Russian plan was signed by Iran and Turkey on Thursday and is backed by the UN. Moscow said that it was talking to ‘Jordan and a number of other countries’ to sign up as backers of the initiative.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4481346/Russia-agree-prevent-mid-air-incidents-Syria.html#ixzz4gOmahb4R
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Op-Ed: If we’re going to rule out negotiations with North Korea, we have to be ready for war — Chinese air traffic controllers eager to chase away U.S. military aircraft

March 23, 2017

By Robert L. Gallucci
The Los Angeles Times

March 23, 2017

Image may contain: airplane and sky

Robert L. Gallucci

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”

Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city. In a New Year’s address, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un indicated such a test could come sooner than we think.

But Tillerson’s warning did signal that the Trump administration is taking U.S. policy toward North Korea in a new direction — that we may be serious about abandoning engagement and willing to pursue containment through military action.

If North Korea is newly capable of striking an American city with a nuclear-armed missile, however, it would not be the first time that the U.S. was defenseless against an adversary’s weapons.

Americans lived for years with Soviet and Chinese missiles pointing in our direction. We had no way to defend against Soviet missiles in the 1950s, nor Chinese missiles in the 1960s. We were worried in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, pounded his shoe against a table during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. For many reasons, Mao worried us even more.

Analysts can read Tillerson’s comments in different ways. If he meant to indicate that the U.S. would undertake a military strike on North Korea to prevent the testing and development of an ICBM — a “left of launch” program, as the Pentagon would call it — such an act could not properly be called preemption, because it would not be responding to an imminent attack. Rather, we would be taking preventive action and risking a preventive war with the goal of cutting off the emergence of a future threat. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was a preventive war, not an act of preemption. Ethics, law and prudence are on the side of preemption but not on preventive strikes.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. intelligence community were to conclude that North Korea was about to launch a missile at Los Angeles, Seoul or Tokyo, we should fully expect Trump to order a preemptive strike to take out the missile before it is launched. If this is the only line Tillerson meant to draw, he should have saved the ink and not made news with the threat.

In either scenario, we can expect that attacking North Korea, even with an intended “surgical strike,” will bring retaliation, most likely against South Korean and American forces and civilians on the Korean peninsula — there are a lot of both within range of North Korean missiles and artillery — and possibly a second Korean War. The U.S. and its allies should be ready for this. At the moment, neither we nor our allies are prepared for war.

With so much at stake, Tillerson should disclose what exactly is new about the North Korean threat that makes deterrence suddenly unreliable. Certainly it is not the quality or quantity of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War, the number of Soviet weapons — counting tactical and strategic weapons deployed in silos, on submarines and aboard bombers —reached 30,000 or so. The North Koreans have less than 20. It is possible that U.S. officials lack confidence in the rationality of Kim Jong Un. If this is the case, the American people should be informed that this is why we are risking another Korean War.

Some argue that an alternative to military action is the adoption of tougher sanctions together with more pressure on China to allow them to work. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an approach, there is little reason to think it will be effective in stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. So the real alternative to war is a negotiated settlement that addresses the threat. There is a lot of work yet to be done in order to set the table for productive negotiations. More than 20 years ago, we struck a deal with the North that froze plutonium production for almost a decade before the deal collapsed: They cheated and we caught them. That was still a deal worth making, and the next one will have to be better. For starters, we should require that North Korea improve the human rights of its citizens as a condition of normalizing relations with the U.S.

The United States has no real capability to shoot down ICBMs, but we never have. We have been defenseless against this threat for six decades. For all those years, we have relied on deterrence and the promise of devastating retaliation. The logic is that the capability of our conventional and nuclear weapons deters our enemies and provides for the nation’s security. If the U.S. is going to abandon this logic now, it should be done with great care, and with the full understanding that we are risking war.

Robert L. Gallucci is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. He served in the State Department as chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and as an ambassador-at-large and special envoy dealing with threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-gallucci-north-korea-icbm-missiles-tillerson-20170323-story.html

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China threatens American B-1 bomber flying off South Korea: Stand off as Beijing claims US aircraft violated its ‘defense zone’

  • China has accused the US plane of operating in its airspace without permission 
  • Pliots of a Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to controllers 
  • Chinese Air Traffic officials radioed the bomber flying 70 miles from Jeju Island 
  • The US bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone
  • American and Japanese officials do not recognize the airspace China claism 

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea.

Pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to Chinese air traffic controllers during a flight about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

American officials told CNN the pilots told the Chinese controllers they were conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path’.

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

The network revealed the tense moment was the result of the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone – a controversial area of sky over the East China Sea.

The airspace also covers islands claimed by Japan, and it is not officially recognized by the US.

‘Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,’ US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura told CNN.

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

‘The ADIZ has not changed our operations.’

Chinese authorities demand airplanes flying over or through the airspace must first notify officials.

US Air Force sources said B-1 bomber was carrying out training operations with Japanese and South Korean jets in recent days.

On March 21, the American bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s.

U.S. Concerned by Non-Navy Chinese Boats in South China Sea

February 16, 2016

By  

Bloomberg

China’s increased reliance on non-naval ships to assert its claims in the South China Sea is complicating U.S. efforts to avoid a clash in the disputed waters, according to 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin.

While the U.S. and Chinese navies are working more closely under an agreed code for unplanned encounters at sea, the deployment of coast guard and other non-naval vessels in the area is “a concern of mine,” Aucoin told reporters on Monday in Singapore. He plans to take the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the 7th Fleet, to China later in the summer.

“We have all types of senior level engagements with the Chinese PLAN, that we meet pretty routinely,” Aucoin said, referring to China’s navy. He said he had a “greater fear” about other actors, “whether it’s coast guard or what we refer to as white shipping or cabbage ships, not sure about their professionalism.”

 
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin

Aucoin made his comments hours before a two-day summit in California between President Barack Obama and leaders from Southeast Asian nations, as the U.S. seeks to build a unified approach to China’s growing military clout. Southeast Asian countries generally welcome China’s investment and economic muscle, even as some have expressed concern about its expanding naval reach.

“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means,” Obama said in his welcoming address at the  estate in California on Monday.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with fellow claimants including Vietnam and the Philippines in a body of water that annually hosts $5 trillion in shipping. In the past two years, China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres in the Spratly archipelago east of the Philippines and is building military facilities there.

New Construction

China is also building on features in the Paracel islands to the north east of the Spratlys, according to images posted on The Diplomat website last week. They showed dredging and filling at two new sites in the Chinese-held island chain. China has made greater use of fishing and maritime surveillance boats to warn off other vessels in the area, blurring the lines between its navy and coast guard.

Last month the U.S. sent a warship into waters contested by China, Vietnam and Taiwan to challenge the “excessive” maritime claims of all three. It was the second time in less than six months the U.S. has challenged China with a freedom-of-navigation voyage. During the first operation by the USS Lassen, where it passed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly island chain, it was shadowed and warned by Chinese boats including non-naval vessels.

‘Being Controlled’

“During the Lassen one it was apparent that they were being controlled, that they weren’t operating independently, and that is something that is in our calculus now,” Aucoin said of the Chinese boats. “How do we approach that when it is not gray hull versus another gray hull, it’s other types of ships. I think we’ll see more of that in the future.”

Navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli said in January that China had no plans to militarize the South China Sea. Still, the country would “never be defenseless,” Wu said. The degree of defensive facilities depends on how much China is under threat, he said.

The U.S.’s 7th Fleet has patrolled Asia’s waters since World War II. Its coverage area extends from Japan to India.

Aucoin said there were no formal talks to bring coast guards under the code for unplanned encounters at sea. “I know I am asking our coast guard to become more involved, to help us with these types of operations because it’s not simply gray hulls anymore,” he said. “I think having a code of conduct that would cover them would be a good thing.”

China has nearly finished a giant coast guard ship and will probably deploy it armed with machine guns and shells in the South China Sea, the Global Times reported in January, dubbing the vessel “The Beast.” China Coast Guard vessel 3901, with a 12,000-ton displacement, will carry 76 millimeter rapid fire guns, two auxiliary guns and two anti-aircraft machine guns, the paper reported.

China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

China’s so-called white-hulled fleet previously involved ships armed at most with water canon and sirens. The ship now under construction is larger than some of the U.S. naval vessels that patrol the area.

It will be the second of China’s mega-cutters, which are the largest coast guard vessels in the world, according to the Global Times. A similar boat entered service last year in the East China Sea, where China is separately involved in a territorial dispute with Japan.

The country also said in January it had successfully completed test flights of civilian aircraft to a new airfield on Fiery Cross Reef, drawing protests from countries including Vietnam. Aucoin said flying fighter aircraft out of the area would have a destabilizing effect and could prompt a U.S. response.

“They do have an operational airfield but I don’t know when they will start flying fighter-type aircraft out of there,” Aucoin said. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, and that includes flying over that airspace.”

He called for greater transparency from China on its intentions generally in the South China Sea. “I think that would relieve some of the angst that we are now seeing, that we are unsure where they are taking this,” Aucoin said. “What has made China powerful, great, is being able to operate through these waters. We just want them to respect those rights so that we can all continue to prosper.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-15/u-s-concerned-by-china-using-non-navy-boats-in-south-china-sea

Related:

 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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Part of China’s fishing fleet

Anti-China protest in the Philippines

Estonia accuses Russia of violating its airspace

December 20, 2015

Estonia has accused a Russian aircraft of violating its airspace.

The country’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that a Russian Antonov AN-72 – a military transport plane – breached Estonian airspace for less than a minute.

Thursday’s incident reportedly took place in Estonian airspace near Vaindloo island, off the country’s northern Baltic Sea coast.

The statement claimed the Russian pilots did not make contact with the Estonian Aviation Service.

Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian embassy’s representative and handed over a letter of protest.

Today’s claim comes less than a month after Turkish jets downed a Russian warplane at the Turkish-Syrian border.

http://www.turkishweekly.net/2015/12/19/news/estonia-accuses-russia-of-violating-its-airspace/