Helsinki (AFP) – Top US and Russian military officials will meet in Helsinki on Friday as part of recurring talks to prevent conflicts such as Syria and Ukraine from escalating, Finnish and US officials said.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, will meet his Russian counterpart General Valery Gerasimov at an undisclosed location in the Finnish capital, the Finnish military announced Thursday.
The men sometimes speak by phone and have met at least twice before, including in Azerbaijan and Turkey last year, when discussions centred on avoiding mishaps in Syria, where both countries are conducting separate military campaigns.
After Russia began bombing in Syria in late 2015 to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the US-led coalition and Moscow established a “deconfliction” hotline aimed at preventing the two sides from inadvertently bombing the others’ ground forces or operating in the same air space.
The line has been used on a near-daily basis and, while imperfect, has prevented some clashes between US-backed and Russia-backed fighters.
Dunford and Gerasimov “will discuss the deconfliction of coalition and Russian operations in Syria, and exchange views on the state of US-Russia military relations and the current international security situation in Europe and other key regions,” Dunford’s spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said in a statement.
Representatives of the Finnish defense forces will not participate in the meeting.