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U.S., Russia near deal on Syrian air space

By Shawn Price

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The United States and Russia might be near a deal for air protocol over Syria, an official said.

Details were in the works, but an agreement over air safety between the United States and Russia is designed to cover all aircraft aspects of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIS or ISIL, a U.S. Defense Department official said Wednesday.

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Though no timeline was announced, the official said a potential deal could come "soon."

Defense officials from the two countries held a video conference intended to create protocols to "promote safe flight operations over Syria," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a written statement.

He said the meeting "focused narrowly on the implementation of specific safety procedures."

The announcement comes as tensions have increased between the United States and Russia in the skies over Syria. Each country is using airstrikes in support of different and sometimes conflicting sides in the increasingly complicated Syrian civil war. During recent airstrikes, Russian and U.S. military aircraft came within miles of each other.

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Since October 2014, the United States has conducted airstrikes on IS while also supporting groups attempting to oust President Bashir al-Assad. On Sept. 30, Russia began airstrikes on anti-Assad groups.

After a Russian jet flew within visual distance of a U.S. jet, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters the pilot was only attempting to identify the U.S. plane and "not scare it."

Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the planes were "close enough for them to get some visual contact, but they were miles apart."

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